3: Aide-de-Camp to Emperor Francis Joseph I at the Court of Vienna, 1909-1914
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Aide-de-Camp to Emperor Francis Joseph I at the Court of Vienna, 1909-1914
His Majesty had four aides-de-camp to represent the main branches of the armed
services. The first aide-de-camp to have been drawn from the Navy was my captain of the Saida,
the later Vice-Admiral Sachs von Hellenau(1). I was proud
and happy to be in the immediate entourage of our King-Emperor, a man respected and
beloved by all, but those who perceived only the outward glitter of my post were under a
misapprehension. Service at Court, so profoundly different from life on board, brought me
many difficulties. I began by reporting to my highest chief, His Majesty's first
Adjutant-General, Count Paar(2). He had held this position
for many years, and of all the members of His Majesty's staff was no doubt the one who
stood closest to him. With the charm of the grand seigneur, he gave me several hints and
much friendly advice, and referred to me to the senior aide-de-camp, Colonel of Dragoons
Baron Bronn(3), who was the son of a Prince Hohenlohe by a
morganatic marriage, so that, in accordance with the traditions of his family, he could
not bear his father's name. Three years later, he was created a prince under the name of
Weikersheim. With his wife, Countess Czernin, and their children, he lived a singularly
happy and harmonious life. The second aide-de-camp was Count Heinrich Hoyos(4),
at that time Lieutenant- Colonel in the Windischgrätz Dragoons. His mother was the sister
of Count Paar. A man of imperturbable good temper, always ready for a joke, he was
generally liked. As he was a passionately keen huntsman and a good shot, I was delighted
when we chanced to be together in a hunting party. The third aide-de-camp was a
Lieutenant-Colonel in the Imperial Rifles, Count Manzano.
I also had to report to the second Adjutant-General, Baron Arthur Bolfras(5), who for many years had been Head of His Majesty's
Military Chancellery. His was an extremely responsible position, for it was his task to
submit to His Majesty names for the more important military appointments. A profound
knowledge of men, a clear judgment of character, made him eminently suitable for this
task, especially as he was a man of high intelligence and sterling good nature. His
unusually clear diction was much appreciated by His Majesty, who retained him in his
service in spite of his great age. The Military Chancellery was situated within the
Imperial Palace, and apart from Baron Bolfras and his deputy nine or ten General Staff
officers worked there. The adviser for Hungarian affairs was then Staff Captain Baron
During my years of service, Emperor Francis Joseph resided at Schönbrunn. Twice a
week, accompanied by an aide-de-camp, he drove to the Hofburg, the Imperial Palace in
Vienna, arriving there at seven o'clock in the morning, to grant audiences. He usually
returned at half-past four in the afternoon.
As aides-de-camp, we had an official residence in the Hofburg, of which we made full
use; there was a similar residence at Schönbrunn for the use of the aide-de-camp on duty.
It was arranged, soon after I had reported to Count Paar, that I should be received in
audience by His Majesty, an interview I anticipated with tension and excitement. From my
early youth, I had heard the King-Emperor spoken of as almighty, a being of a higher
order, enthroned in regions beyond human aspiration. Now I was to meet him face to face,
to be daily in his personal service. When I entered his study, His Majesty, wearing the
uniform of a General, took a few steps forward to meet me. I have never known any other
monarch who personified majesty as did Francis Joseph. This, my first impression, I have
never had reason to modify. If the high dignity that radiated from him and which was
entirely free from affectation demanded that visitors should keep their distance, I
quickly observed that all embarrassment melted away before his kindness and affability.
This was the greatest moment of my life as I stood before the grey-haired ruler. On
beholding his frame, bent beneath the heavy cares of state and the tragic fate of his kin,
I was filled with compassion and affection, feelings that I have always retained. From the
questions he put to me, I realized that he had been fully informed of my origins and my
career. Even now, it is as if I can see the glance of his kindly blue eyes, can hear the
intonations of his voice. When he dismissed me, the audience lasted about ten minutes and
was conducted standing, and I left the audience chamber walking backwards, I was in a
state of ecstasy, determined to serve my King and Emperor faithfully, and if necessary
gladly to give my life for him.
The duties of the aides-de-camp were so organized that two of them were, for a month,
on duty on alternate days. On the last day of each month, a court equipage arrived to take
an aide-de-camp to Schönbrunn, where he installed himself in the service apartments and
took over the duties of his predecessor. The aide-de-camp on duty was dismissed each day
at six o'clock by His Majesty personally. The third aide-de-camp then began a month's
leave, while the fourth was in reserve for special missions, to accompany His Majesty's
guests, for instance.
I do not know how these matters are arranged in other courts, but in Vienna, at any
rate, no written instructions were ever given the aides-de-camp. Their behaviour and
functions were dictated by oral tradition, which meant that matters were neither simple
nor straight-forward. If one enquired, one usually received the reply, "You'll see
for yourself, there'll be no difficulty at all." That did not satisfy me. I therefore
wrote down a series of questions as a guide to conduct for the day that my duties began:
December 1st. Which uniform should I wear on duty? Should I wear the adjutant's lanyards?
Were gloves de rigueur?
"No, no gloves."
"Why not? Gloves are worn on all other occasions when reporting for duty."
Was the aide-de-camp to knock? To my great surprise, the answer was again no.
I was still feeling extremely uncertain when, on the evening of November 30th, a
guardsman came to inform me at what hour His Majesty would rise the next morning. He
reported as follows: "The hour is four."
His Majesty sometimes got up at half past three; indeed, during my last two years of
duty, that was the rule. We naval officers were in a more favourable position than our
military colleagues, for on board ship we had been used to a four hours' watch at night
and had become used to sleeping beforehand. If I remember correctly, even on that first
night I slept well, having turned in early, and rose feeling fresh and energetic as I
hastened down to the aides-de-camp room on the first floor, separated from the Emperor's
study by a baroque reception hall.
On his desk the monarch would find the documents sent from the Chancelleries of the
Cabinet and the Ministry of War, and his aide-de-camp was rarely in demand while he
studied them. With the approach of half-past eight, the two Adjutants-General arrived. On
the stroke of nine, the aide-de-camp announced first Count Paar and after him Baron
Bolfras. They might be followed by archdukes, cabinet ministers, chiefs of the general
staff and other high dignitaries with important communications or reports to make. These
audiences lasted until lunchtime. Then His Majesty, usually alone, went for a stroll in
the conservatory, after which he resumed work, going on until dinnertime at half-past
five, dinner usually being served to him at his desk. At six o'clock, he dismissed his
aide-de-camp. During the whole of my period of service, no aide-de-camp was ever kept late
or recalled in the evening or during the night. My first day passed happily and without
misfortune. My colleagues had been right when they told me that in the main the rules
consisted of tact and common sense. The Emperor was not a talkative man and preferred
concise answers. Once, an aide-de-camp who was on duty for the first time felt, as they
drove out of the palace, that he ought to make conversation. As they passed the tower, he
pointed to the monument of Maria Theresa(7) and remarked:
"What a glorious work of art! A triumph of the human urge to create." On their
arrival at Schönbrunn, the Emperor called for Count Paar and ordered him to have
"that chatterbox" replaced immediately by someone else. Another aide-de-camp met
with the same fate for clicking his heels loudly every time he made a statement. That sort
of thing was not done at the Viennese Court.
General audiences were granted at the Imperial Palace. They began at ten o'clock and
the list invariably ran to fifty names. In earlier days there had been a hundred. The
order of precedence had to be worked out by the aide-de-camp on duty, though for what
reason I do not know. It would have been more natural for that task to have been left to
the protocol experts, who had, in the first place, dealt with the requests for an
audience. It was no simple matter for an officer to find his way about the hierarchies
that exist at Court and to know who ranked above whom when dealing with princely
personages, high-ranking clergy, present and past cabinet ministers, foreign dignitaries
and officers. We had general guiding rules, but each one seemed to have its exceptions. A
princely privy councillor or chamberlain, for instance, went before all others; if,
however, a prince, such as one of the Schwarzenbergs, had not applied for the
chamberlain's status, he had no 'rank' and fell among the last.
Those who had been called gathered in a hall where an official would conduct them one
by one, in accordance with the aide-de-camp's list, to the aide-de-camp whose duty it was
to announce them. Two officers of the Guards, one Austrian and one Hungarian, stood with
drawn swords at the door of the audience chamber. Each of the fifty individual audiences,
usually to express thanks for an appointment or a distinction, occasionally to make a
personal request, was bound to be very short. In the afternoon, more visitors were
received until, at half-past four, His Majesty drove back to Schönbrunn.
On one of these drives, it was a rainy November day and we were in a closed carriage,
His Majesty looked out with great interest at the Palace Guard and expressed emphatic
thanks for the honour they were showing him. "This regiment," he said, "is
mounting guard at the Palace for the first time. It is the best regiment in Vienna and one
of the best in the monarchy." I was proud to hear him say this, for the regiment in
question was the 82nd Austro-Hungarian infantry regiment from Székelyudvarhely,
Transylvania. During the First World War, that regiment performed marvels of bravery and
suffered tremendous losses.
Before the audiences began, the aides-de-camp room was usually a hive of activity.
Everyone present was drawn willy-nilly into discussions on a number of often delicate
problems. I learned to view the 'nationalities problem' from a new angle. It filled me
with anxious forebodings to observe in the course of discussions that foreign influences
were at work and to note how, even indirectly, the theories of irredentism and separatism
were infiltrating. At times, socialist ideas were also mentioned. The people who voiced
these were plainly unaware how well off they were. They wanted to see the country governed
on the basis of abstract theory and failed to allow for the immutable laws of nature.
Their gaze went as far as the destruction of what was in existence. What the new state
they were striving after would be like or what it would turn into, of that they had only
the vaguest notion. If, therefore, we, that is to say those of us who lived in close
contact with His Majesty, were not wholly without cares. The Bosnian crisis of 1908 had
brought the dangers threatening the monarchy clearly before all eyes, we were obviously
far from the spirit of defeatism that may have prevailed elsewhere. The strength of
tradition and mutual interest, ensuring the stability of the Habsburg Empire, was shown at
the outbreak of the First World War. Those who had argued that the monarchy would fall
asunder on the first day of a major war were proved wrong by the facts. The military
defeat which enabled the forces of revolution to carry out their destructive work was not
the result of any inherent weakness in the monarchy but of the crushing superiority of an
An officer, and in particular an aide-de-camp, was not in a position to make political
comments nor give political advice. Only among his friends could he discuss the
advisability of taking stronger measures to counteract pan-Slav propaganda or pan-Serbian
activities or Italian irredentism. The question whether such measures could have diverted
historical development must remain unanswered.
In the aides-de-camp room, we noticed also that between His Majesty and his nephew
Archduke Francis Ferdinand(8), the heir to the throne,
there were differences that went deeper than the usual divergence between generations.
That, however, will be discussed in a later chapter.
In spite of his advanced age, His Majesty adhered to the traditional representative
duties of the sovereign, among which were the gala dinners on the occasion of visits made
by high-ranking guests, and in honour of the Diplomatic Corps in general. So large was the
number of Ambassadors and Envoys that they had to be invited in groups. The diplomats
assembled in the Pink Drawing-Room in Schönbrunn and engaged in conversation until the
Lord Steward of the Household, Prince Montenuovo(9), gave
three raps with his staff to announce the approach of His Majesty. All conversation ceased
and all took position according to rank. Time and time again, I observed how profound an
impression his appearance and personality made. I always admired the perfection with which
he held court. Even when he talked with a hundred people in the course of an evening, and
that in many languages, the Lord Steward murmuring the names and countries of the guests,
he had some friendly, personal comment to make to each one and was never at a loss for a
subject. It is utterly false that he asked the same question over and over again:
"How do you like Vienna?" as Count Sforza(10),
the Italian Foreign Minister after both the First and Second World Wars, averred in his
book "Makers of Modern Europe", which he wrote while in exile. There he speaks
of Francis Joseph as "a petrified eighteenth century autocrat" and talks of his
"cold, proud and closed nature", disclosing how utterly he had misunderstood the
personality of Emperor Francis Joseph.
His Majesty retired about eleven o'clock and was at his desk the next morning at his
customary hour. That this is no legend I can vouch: with his proverbial sense of duty,
Francis Joseph spent every working day, beginning at five o'clock in the morning, at his
desk going through the documents submitted to him by his Ministers. Never did I see him
idle or wasting time, and I can speak with authority on this point, for the aides-de-camp
invariably entered his study without knocking. He never took a nap, even after meals, as
do so many younger men, though they have not risen at half-past three or four o'clock in
the morning. At the age of eighty, Emperor Francis Joseph always inspected his garrisons
on horseback, whether in Vienna, Budapest or at Sarajevo.
His Majesty loved music and art. In my time, admittedly, he no longer went to the Opera
or the theatre. Only once did I attend him, while at Ischl, to the premiere of a farce
entitled When the Capercaillie Capers(11), in
which Girardi's(12) artistry made him laugh until the
tears ran down his face. And, of course, the prima donna of the Court Opera, Frau Jeritza(13), who later became so famous, began her career in the
summer theatre at Ischl.
His Majesty always opened the spring art exhibition in person. He did not hide the fact
that the then modern art, of which the Viennese secessionism were the
representatives, was not to his taste. I remember the drive to the Künstlerhaus on the
first occasion that I accompanied him, and the agonies I suffered on the way, for the day
was chilly, we were in a closed carriage and had a fur rug across our knees. We were bound
to moor on the port side, I had decided, which meant that I would have to jump out first.
But what was I to do with the fur rug? Shortly before we arrived, as if aware of my
dilemma, His Majesty threw the rug on to the carriage floor.
At the exhibition, he passed by most of the paintings in silence, listening to the
explanations given by an eminent artist. He paused in front of a landscape with a hunting
lodge in the woods and asked, "Is that meant to be a lake in front of the
lodge?" The artist was summoned. His Majesty repeated his question and received the
answer, "No, Your Majesty, that is a forest meadow." "But it's blue."
The artist, who was one of the modern school, said proudly, "That is how I see
it." At which, His Majesty smiled and remarked, "In that case, you oughtn't to
have become a painter."
He never learned to appreciate faces depicted in shades of green and yellow; on one
occasion, while viewing the art section of a hunting exhibition, he came upon a female
nude, drawn entirely out of proportion, and, turning to the President of the exhibition,
asked, "Tell me, are these gentlemen altogether in earnest, or are they pulling our
The reader may be surprised to find judgments on art in this narrative. But the
seaman's eye can be used for purposes other than estimating distances at sea, and I have
tried my hand with brush and palette. After the exacting service of the Navy, Vienna gave
me the feeling that I had too much spare time on my hands. Not that the musical life of
Vienna was lost on me; I first thought of having my voice trained, but decided that I was
too old for that. I turned instead to painting. As, in view of my position, I could not
attend a public academy, I took the advice of the daughter of the Steward of the Household
of Archduchess Annunciata(14) and joined the private class
of professor Mayerhofer(15) which she and other ladies
attended every morning. The professor introduced me to the ladies and placed me in front
of an easel with a sheet of carton, put a stick of charcoal in my hand, and set me to draw
a Caesar who, clad in a toga and with a laurel wreath on his brow, was seated on the dais
before us. I set to, but the laurel wreath which I drew was not one that I should have
cared to aspire to. I seized a cloth, wiped out what I could and started afresh, only to
rub it out again. At one moment, I was in such despair that I thought I might as well go
home and give up the idea for good. But after the fifth or sixth attempt, the drawing was
beginning to be recognizable, so much so that I ventured to begin working with brush and
paint as the ladies were doing. The pleasure I took in the work helped me to make rapid
progress. It may have been due to my nautical training that I was able to observe with
great accuracy and precision. After a few months, the professor gave me high praise in
saying that I could get a likeness better than any of his other pupils. As I was eager to
advance to painting landscape, game and horses, I often went, on the Professor's advice,
to the Art Museum to copy the works of the great masters. The drawback to that was that
one tended to become a centre of public attraction.
For five years, I spent most of my spare mornings painting. In the end, at Ischl, I
tried my hand at a portrait of His Majesty, without his knowledge, of course. I saw him
every day at lunch, he lunched at half-past two; and as I sat opposite him I would closely
study some particular detail of his face, impress it on my memory, and transfer that
memory to canvas in my service apartment. The two Adjutants-General and the Emperor's
valet, who knew him better than anyone else, declared that they had never before seen so
striking a likeness.1 I do not say this in boastfulness; I succeeded because I was
familiar with every wrinkle in his face after having painstakingly studied his features
for weeks, whereas His Majesty did not sit to other portrait painters more than once and
then only for a short time.
One day, the first valet, good old Ketteler, came to me to ask whether he could take
the portrait as His Majesty wished to see it. The next time I was on duty, I was told how
much he had liked it. To me, the painting was a happy memory of years of contentment. It
accompanied me to our villa at Pola and, after the debacle, to my father's house at
Kenderes; in each of these places it survived two looting raids, to fall a victim at last
to the fifth and most thorough gang of looters.
During my period of service, His Imperial Majesty, Kaiser Wilhelm II, twice came on a
visit. On the first occasion, we drove to the railway station to meet him. Our Emperor
wore his German Field Marshal's uniform, and as the imperial train drew in he
automatically straightened himself, so that, from the back, he might have been taken for a
subaltern in spite of his eighty years. We boarded the train, remaining on it as far as
Hitzing. On arrival there, the German Emperor sprang to the window, then, stepping back,
exclaimed, "This is a spectacle I shall never forget." Outside the station,
twelve carriages could be seen, facing the station, all drawn by matching snow-white
Lipizzaners, and as the engine entered, all the horses performed a perfect 'eyes left',
turning their heads toward the engine and displaying the identical markings on their
When King Nikita of Montenegro(16) came on a visit to
the Court of Vienna, I was sent to meet him in Trieste, to which our torpedo-boat depot
ship, the Pelikan, often used as a yacht, had brought him. He was on that
occasion presented with the command of an infantry regiment. The appropriate uniform, made
for him by a skilled Viennese tailor in a day, was so much to his liking that he wore it
constantly until he returned to the Pelikan at Trieste.
This visit was particularly harmonious. King Nikita was an intelligent man with a
likeable personality. By means of a clever marriage, he was related not only to the
Serbian but also to the Italian and Russian dynasties.
In 1910, King Peter(17) of Serbia had had an enquiry
made to ascertain whether or not a visit from him would be welcome. The negotations in
this matter were protracted. Francis Joseph had no particular liking for the
Karadjordjevich dynasty which had acceded to the throne as a result of the murder of King
Alexander Obrenovich in 1903. When the latter's father, King Milan(18),
was monarch, excellent relations had existed between Belgrade and Vienna. Since that time,
Serbia had moved moved more and more into the Russian orbit. In the end, however, the
Serbian envoy was informed that His Majesty would receive King Peter on such and such a
day in Budapest. Shortly before the date fixed, the reception was cancelled on the plea of
indisposition. In my opinion, that was to be regretted. The visit might have improved
relations, whereas the cancellation could only aggravate existing tensions.
Every year, early in July, His Majesty would go to Ischl in the Salzkammergut, the
country in Upper Austria near Salzburg, for two or three months. Ischl was a friendly,
clean little village with potent mineral springs; but the visitor had to accustom himself
to the frequent rainfall. The Imperial Villa stood in a great park, consisting mainly of
highland forest, with peaks rising to some two thousand five hundred feet, inhabited by
chamois and other game. His Majesty's summer residence acted as a magnet to the
aristocracy; they were followed by the rich manufacturers, who built elegant villas along
the Traun. The mountain air and the springs were extremely beneficial to health, and there
were many who became converts to the motto of the discoverer of the Ischl springs:
"The greatest happiness on earth is not to be healthy, but to get healthy."
Here His Majesty's life was less constrained. After an early morning ride, he had
breakfast; then he dealt with the documents that had arrived and received people in
audience. After a walk in the garden, he was served with a meal at half-past two, at which
his two daughters, the Archduchess Gisela(19) with her
husband Prince Leopold(20) of Bavaria and their two
children, and the Archduchess Marie Valerie(21) with her
husband Archduke Francis Salvator(22), would be present,
and also Count Paar and the aide-de-camp on duty. If the weather was tolerably good, His
Majesty would, in the afternoon, ride on a pony through his preserves to some covert near
which a stag was known to break cover. The Emperor was a keen and skilful huntsman, and an
excellent shot, advanced though he was in age. I once suggested the use of telescopic
sights, which facilitate one's aim by making both game and horizon stand out better, but
in vain. His Majesty would have none of such new-fangled gadgets; he was so conservative
that he did not even use modern guns but remained faithful to his old carbine.
For centuries the Emperors had had the hunting rights in all Austrian state forests. In
each region, an Imperial Master of the Hunt was appointed who organized excellent hunts in
accordance with ancient traditions. I was told that in many of the drives, the area which
the beaters had to cover had been handed down from father to son. Though, in mountainous
country, the drive might take one man over a mountain and another through a valley, the
chain of beaters would always emerge from the wood in a straight line.
Although I too was a keen hunter, I had to learn many things, even if it was mainly a
matter of vocabulary. Special words were used for the stag's eyes, his feet, his ears. To
use the wrong expression was to make oneself a butt for ridicule. We always went out in
the regional costume, in chamois leather shorts, that is to say. I had to accustom myself
to appearing before the Archduchesses at dinner with bare knees, although I knew no
objection would be made.
At Ischl, we mainly shot chamois. His Majesty, whose eyesight was remarkable, was often
the first to see a chamois on some distant rock while to the guests it was still
invisible. At the Naval Academy, to which only candidates with first-class eyesight were
admitted, I had been able to read the small No.7 print at the maximum distance at every
eye test during my four years of training. Again I do not recount this in boastfulness,
for, after all, it was a physical fact for which I could hardly be held responsible, but
as the key to the following experience. His Majesty was once driving in an open carriage
along an unfamiliar road leading to the palace of the Archduke Rainer, whom he was
visiting to congratulate him and his wife on their diamond wedding. We passed within a
fair distance of an exceptionally large building which was under construction. "I
wonder what that place is," His Majesty remarked. I replied that it was the new
premises of a municipal trades school.
"How do you know?"
"It says so on that notice attached to the central balcony."
His Majesty could not read the notice, and told the coachman to drive nearer to the
building until he too was able to decipher the words. Then he ordered the man to turn and
drive on. "What eyes you've got!" he said to me. I felt a certain regret at
having outclassed him.
For the battues(23) after chamois, which usually took
place twice a week at Ischl, we would drive early in the morning to the hunting ground in
a carriage drawn by two splendid Lipizzaners, and then mount ponies to reach the coverts.
To the more distant hunting grounds we travelled by private train. Over the centuries,
records had been kept of what had been shot at the various coverts. By that means, a scale
of values had been worked out: there was the Emperor's covert, a No. 1 covert, and so on.
These were assigned to guests according to rank.
Most game, once raised, remains on the move until it has found good cover. Chamois, on
the other hand, are uncertain in behaviour and the right moment to fire has to be
carefully judged. His Majesty preferred to shoot them on the move. At the end of each
shoot, he would interrogate the participants and ask them what they had seen and shot. Woe
betide anyone who had not acquitted himself correctly.
At one chamois shoot, the first shot was fired from the covert next to Count Paar, and
he guessed that it was his neighbour the Archduke of Tuscany. There was a ridge in the
terrain immediately in front of him at a distance of just over a hundred yards, and after
a few minutes the head of a chamois popped up above it, disappearing again at once. Count
Paar decided that it was a buck and fired. After a few moments, during which the Archduke
fired again, another chamois head appeared at approximately the same place, and again
Count Paar fired. The same sequence was repeated for a third time. Count Paar had no idea
what he had hit, if anything, and the gamekeeper who had been assigned to him offered to
go and investigate. It was, of course, strictly forbidden to leave the covert, but
curiosity proved too strong. After some time, the gamekeeper returned looking very upset
and reported, "Three kids, Your Excellency."
Count Paar was in despair, but refused the offer of the well-meaning gamekeeper that he
should quickly bury the kids. When the shoot was over, he went to make his report with a
very guilty conscience, which was in no way relieved when he saw that His Majesty was
considerably perturbed by something the Archduke was saying to him. As he drew nearer, he
could hear the Archduke being rebuked for having shot three female chamois that had kids.
When his turn came, Count Paar declared that he had disposed of the kids which had lost
their mothers. This luckily won the Emperor's approval.
One afternoon, we went to shoot on the Jainsen peak in the park. While the Empress(24) was alive, this had not been permitted. Even after her
death His Majesty had never himself joined in these particular shoots. On this occasion,
however, he gave permission as the game had been doing considerable damage in the park. As
we set off in the carriage, after dinner, His Majesty accompanied us, ascertained the
direction of the wind, and said to me, "You'll have a chance to get a stag
I was given a very awkward covert; beyond an open space I had facing me a rocky wall of
some hundred feet high, and rising above it the forest where the beaters were. Nor was the
light good. I was looking into the sun and had to aim into the dark wood. A few minutes
after the chain of beaters had gone by above me, I heard a branch snap and two stags,
which had broken through, followed each other rapidly. I fired one shot at each, but
neither faltered and I thought my bullets must have struck trees.
After the battue, I went to the place where I had seen the stags and followed the trail
of blood that I found. I soon came upon the body of one of the stags, but saw no trace of
the other. On my return to the house in the park where we lived, I found my family and
some of the gamekeepers standing round my second stag, which had managed to drag itself
even further. It was the finest stag that I have ever shot in Austria.
At the end of April, the capercaillie(25) season
opened. His Majesty took part in a shoot for the last time when he was seventy-nine.
Raising his gun for the first cock, he brought the bird down faultlessly, and then said,
"This is no longer a sport for me." But although he had given up this pleasure
which he had so much enjoyed in the past, he still had to know exactly how his guests had
fared. Every morning, the Imperial Master of the Hunt had to report by telegram the tally
of the birds that his guests had shot or missed. His Majesty was always annoyed to hear if
game was wounded and lost. For this reason, I invariably used my 6.7 mm.
Mannlicher-Schönauer with metal-cased bullets, even though the other sportsmen used
Most of the guests went to Neuberg in the vicinity of Mürzsteg, capercaillie being
plentiful there. I used to choose either the hunting lodge at Eisenerz or the one at
Radmer, but the first time I shot capercaillie, I went to Hieflau. At the station, I was
met by a bearded old gamekeeper called Loidl and with him went to the cabin near the
mating place. This was the first time that I was shooting capercaillie, though I didn't
tell Loidl that, as I did not wish him to take me for a tyro. Naturally I let him tell me
what to do: at the first light of dawn, the cock begins his mating song in the highest
branches of a larch or a pine-tree. His song consists of three phrases, and it is during
the third phrase, when he can neither see nor hear, that you draw near. At four in the
morning, we set out in the dark, Loidl going ahead with a lantern. After about ten
minutes, we came to a halt, blew out the lantern, and waited. Soon Loidl began to nod,
listened intently, and whispered to me, "Hear him?" I answered, "No."
After a few minutes, he asked again, "You still don't hear him?" Again I had to
say no, for I wasn't too certain what I was supposed to be listening for. Then Loidl said,
"Now we're going after him," and at intervals he moved two, three paces forward.
By that time, I could hear the cock and was able to distinguish the three phrases. But the
pace of this "going after him" was too slow for me, and I thought I knew better
than Loidl, who had been doing it for forty years. At the third phrase, I rushed forward
past him. When a canary is singing in a room, I thought to myself, one often has to plug
one's ears; considering the size of the bird we were after, I imagined it must still be a
few hundred paces away, but I was very much in error. We were on the crest of the hill;
the cock was in a tall larch growing below us on the hillside, so that suddenly, to my
dismay, I saw the bird at eye level not a hundred feet away. I stopped short and stood as
if rooted to the ground, but the bird had seen me and, stretching its neck like a bottle
of hock, it took wing. In a reproachful tone, Loidl said, "Now he's off." felt
very ashamed of myself, but, after a little while, Loidl said, "He's calling
again," and once more we slowly advanced. This time I kept dutifully behind Loidl,
and at last we spotted the bird. He was a long way away, and we could get no nearer as
there was a clearing between us. Against Loidl's advice, I fired and fortunately brought
the bird down, thus regaining Loidl's esteem.
Some time during the first half of September, we would return to Schönbrunn in
readiness for the winter season with its receptions and balls, theatres and concerts. I
particularly remember the occasion on which we heard Caruso(26)
sing the part of Don Jose in Carmen. Perhaps it was because we expected a mighty voice,
whereas Caruso had a soft, beautifully lyrical tenor, but after the first aria he received
hardly any applause. With the Song of the Rose in the second act, however, which he sang
with a rare perfection and so beautifully that tears stood in one's eyes, he won storms of
applause and cries of approval such as I had never heard before. For a quarter of an hour,
Caruso could not be persuaded to rise from the kneeling position he had assumed to express
Vienna was not known as the city of song for nothing. We enjoyed the best music,
classical and less classical. Among the latter, I think especially of the light operas of
Franz Lehár(27), whose rise followed with considerable
interest, for he had been a naval band leader for three years and, during my bachelor
years, had often come to Pola to play me his own compositions or to accompany my singing.
I remember very well the high hopes he had of his first opera Kukuschka, which he
had composed at that time. He had suffered a sad disappointment, for this urge to compose
had not won the approval of his chiefs, being regarded as unsuitable in a naval
bandmaster, and he was dismissed. At its premiere, Kukuschka was a flop. Both
that and his dismissal proved to be strokes of luck for the young musician in that he was
left free to devote himself to his real talent: light opera, so many of which he has given
the world. They have made him famous. We often met at Ischl, where he had bought an
elegant villa on the bank of the Traun. There, again, he was lucky. He was able to pay the
price of the villa from the proceeds of a sale of a lot of old prints and paintings that
he had found in its attics, for he bought the villa complete as it stood, including
furniture. In memory of the old days, Lehár later dedicated a spirited parade march to
Vienna was famous, not only for its opera and concert hall, but also for its theatre,
all three competing with one another in quality. I saw Kainz(28)
and, of course, Frau Wilbrandt-Baudius(29), who later made
her appearance at the Imperial Theatre at the age of ninety. In those days, moreover, we
had the time and leisure to visit the world-famous museums of the city.
For a naval officer, it was rare to be able to enjoy family life for so long and in
such pleasant circumstances. Our four children had a governess and were taught, in
accordance with the Hungarian educational system, by the Augustine friars. These were
plainly marked out as episcopal candidates. One of them, Mgr. Luttor(30),
was later active for many years at our Legation to the Vatican; another, Czapik(31), became Archbishop of Eger. At the end of the school
year, we took our children to Pressburg(32), where they
entered for their examinations and obtained their school certificates.
Upon our return, I met the commanding officer of the Hungarian Guards, General Count
Lónyay(33), who enquired charmingly after my family. With
paternal pride and joy, I told him of the excellent results of the Pressburg examination.
"Yes, I know," he said, "those first examinations make one wonder what this
young genius is going to become in life. Minister of Foreign Affairs? Perhaps even
greater? And then, a few years later, he goes to a grammar school and you go to the
headmaster and you say, 'Tell me honestly, is the boy an idiot?' and you receive the
reply, 'Oh, no, not quite...'
Count Paar was renowned for his ability to relate interesting occurrences and
anecdotes. He used to make time seem fleeting when we came on duty in the early morning
and had to wait for the clock to strike nine. He almost invariably began with "Have I
told you this before?" and I invariably answered, "I don't think so," so
that over the years, as is often the case with old gentlemen, I heard his stories time and
time again. Many of them I got by heart and can retell them to this day, for instance, the
story of the visit of His Majesty to Paris, a return visit to the Emperor Napoleon III(34). A big parade had been arranged and at the head of the
column rode the comfortable figure of the commanding General. As the troops approached our
Emperor, who stood beside the Empress Eugenie(35), they
roared from thousands of throats, "Vive l'Empereur!" The General's horse reared
at the noise, and its rider, sword in hand, flew, describing a perfect parabola, to the
ground. Full of indignation and at the same time somewhat amused, Napoleon III turned to
Count Paar and remarked: "And now the Empress will want to give him another horse,
for she thinks it was the horse's fault. But you'll see, he'll go down again just the same
In Hungary, we do not know this jubilant shout of the people. I had heard it before at
the selamlik whenever the Sultan made his appearance: "Chokyasha(36)
At other times, Count Paar would tell the story of the member of a South German ruling
house who had been appointed to the command of the 12th Hussars at Klagenfurt. As soon as
he had found a suitable villa, he sent for his wife and all his belongings. Shortly
afterwards, the senior officer of the regiment sent a smart Hungarian lieutenant to the
villa to enquire when it would be convenient for the officers' corps to be presented to
the Duchess. In the hall of the villa were the mounds of luggage and bending over them
near the door was a young woman busy unpacking. The lieutenant could not resist the
temptation and gave the young woman, whom he believed to be a housemaid, a hearty smack on
the bottom. As she sprang up, he took her tenderly by the chin and asked where he might
find His Highness. Laughing at the young man's impudence, she told him to go up the stairs
to the first floor and knock at the first door. The lieutenant carried out his mission,
and the next morning, at eleven o'clock, the reception was held. As they all stood waiting
in order of seniority, the Duchess and her husband entered the reception room and, to his
horror, the lieutenant recognized the bewitching housemaid. One after the other, the
officers were introduced, and for each one Her Highness had a few charming words. When the
lieutenant's turn came, she said, "I believe we have met before," whereupon the
lieutenant, completely losing his head, in his confusion blurted out in the broadest of
Hungarian accents, "Alas, Your Majesty!"
Count Paar could tell stories of the great festivities that had taken place in Vienna
in 1908, before my period of service began, on the occasion of His Majesty's Diamond
Jubilee. What events had not those sixty years seen? "Nothing," His Majesty had
said when the news of the murder of the Empress was broken to him, "nothing has been
spared me." His brother, the Emperor Maximilian(37),
had been court-martialled and shot by the Mexican revolutionaries. His only son, the very
intelligent Crown Prince Rudolph(38), in whom lay all his
hopes, lost his life under tragic circumstances. His wife, the Empress and Queen
Elizabeth, so highly esteemed and gratefully honoured by the Hungarian people, was
murdered by an Italian anarchist in Geneva. The same fate later befell his nephew Archduke
Francis Ferdinand, the heir to the throne, at Sarajevo. He still carried the burden of the
execution of the thirteen Hungarian Generals at Arad(39)
in 1849 at the end of the War of Liberation, though he was blameless in the matter, since
he was then a youth of eighteen in the hands of the Camarilla. Even the losses at
Königgraetz(40) weighed heavily on his soul, and it was
his most fervent wish never to have to experience another war. But not even that
experience was spared him.
In all those dark hours, His Majesty sought and found solace in his strong religious
faith. He saw his task, of ruler as one given him by God and he performed it with a sense
of duty to which he subordinated his own personal desires. Painfully precise, even in the
smallest details, he personally cleaned the red surface of his desk with a small brush
every evening when the day's work was finished. Simple and unassuming in the conduct of
his private life, he did not regard the strict Spanish Court etiquette as an end in itself
but as the necessary outward form for a tradition, the maintenance of which among the
diverse ethnic elements of the Habsburg monarchy was more important than in other
countries. The fundamental traits of his character were kindliness and courtesy. In his
wisdom, which long experience had refined, he aimed first of all at righteousness, which
to him was the 'foundation of the realm'.
When His Majesty celebrated his eightieth birthday on August 15th, 1910, his physical
and mental faculties still unimpaired, the huntsmen of Austria dedicated a statue in
bronze to him. An excellent likeness, portraying him in the leather shorts of the
traditional national hunting costume, his gun over his shoulder, his alpenstock in his
hand, standing on a rock. At his feet lay a fine stag with a royal head, the antlers
modelled after those of a stag that His Majesty had actually shot in the vicinity of the
monument. In keeping, all the guests invited to the unveiling ceremony wore hunting
costume. Count Wurmbrandt gave the address and the whole gathering was deeply moved when,
following upon it, the Viennese male choir sang in the forest the national anthem:
"Gott erhalte, Gott beschütze unsern Kaiser, unser Land" (God preserve, God
protect our Emperor, our Land).
In 1912, His Majesty went for a relatively long visit to Budapest, where the joint
delegations of the Austrian and the Hungarian Parliaments were meeting to vote on the
annual budget. From the Western Railway Station, we drove on a sunny afternoon in open
carriages to the Royal Palace. The 'new times' found their expression in the fact that
masses of workers, organized by the Social Democrat Party, were demonstrating against the
Hungarian Prime Minister, Count Tisza. It was a demonstration all the more reprehensible
in that the Balkan War was raging at the time and dangerous incidents were yet again
occurring on the borders of the Habsburg Empire. The delegations voting on the increased
expenditure necessary for the strengthening of the armed forces made great difficulties in
their inexplicable shortsightedness, an attitude they bitterly regretted having taken in
years to come.
Upon our return to Vienna, the Navy was mobilized in readiness should the flames
blazing behind our coast leap their confines. I was authorized to leave the Court and take
over the command of the Budapest. To breathe the sea air again, to feel the deck
of a ship under my feet once more, to be among my old friends, was a great delight to me.
All went smoothly; action was not found to be necessary and before long the fleet was
demobilized. I returned to Vienna.
As a result of the two Balkan Wars, Turkey had been practically driven out of Europe.
All that she retained was a small region between Adrianople and the Narrows. Greece
expanded considerably towards the north and acquired Salonika. The Kingdom of Serbia was
enlarged, encouraging it to put forward further claims. The reckoning was paid by
Bulgaria, which, in the second Balkan War, had tried to revise by force of arms what she
considered the unjust territorial settlement dictated by the Powers. Montenegro remained
independent, and a new state, Albania, was created, on the throne of which the Great
Powers placed the Prince of Wied(41). Balkan affairs were
regarded with a very different eye in Vienna and in Budapest. Premier Count Tisza upheld
the view that the recognition of the changes brought about by the war was in keeping with
the traditions and interests of Hungary, and that Hungary should help the peoples of the
Balkans in their struggle for independence.
My period of service as an aide-de-camp was again extended, so that I spent the years
immediately preceding the outbreak of the First World War in Vienna.
1. Adm. Moritz Sachs von Hellenau (1844-1933).
2. Cavalry General count Eduard Paar, 1837-1919.
3. Col. Baron Karl von Bronn (1862-1925).
5. Gen. Baron Arthur von Bolfras (1838-1922).
6. Baron Boldizsár Láng, 1877-1943.
7. Empress and Queen of Hungary, (1717-1780).
9. Alfred Montenuovo (1843-1927), colonel of the Guards.
10. Count Carlo Sforza, 1872-1952.
11. "The rutting of the wood-grouse."
12. Alexander Girardi (1850-1918), viennese actor.
13. Maria Jeritza (1887-1982), Austrian opera singer.
14. Maria Annunciata Habsburg (1876-1975) First Lady in Waiting.
15. Adolf Meyerhofer (1857-1932), painter.
16. Nicholas I (1841-1921) reigned Montenegro between 1860 and
17. Peter Karadjordjevich (1844-1921).
18. Milan Obrenovic (1854-1901).
19. Archduchess Gisele Louise Marie (1856-1932)
20. Major General, 1846-1930.
21. Archduchess Marie Valerie (1868-1924).
22. Cavalry General, 1866-1939.
23. Method of hunting when a line of beaters chase the game toward
24. Empress and Queen, Elisabeth Amalie Eugenie Wittelsbach of
25. Tetrao urogallus, a type of grouse.
26. Enrico Caruso (1873-1921) Italian opera singer.
27. Francis Lehár (1870-1948) Hungarian playwright.
28. Josef Kainz (1858-1910), viennese actor.
29. Auguste Wilbrandt-Baudius, viennese actress.
30. Monsignor Francis Luttor (1886-1953), diplomat.
31. Julius Czapik (1887-1956).
32. Pozsony, ancient capital of Hungary, now Bratislava.
33. Cavalry General Albert Lónyay (1850-1923).
34. Emperor of France, 1809-1873.
35. Empress Eugenie Maria de Montijo de Guzmán, 1826-1920.
36. "We kiss your feet".
37. Maximilian Habsburg (1832-1867)
38. Archduke Rudolph Francis Carl Joseph Habsburg (1858-1889) and
his girlfriend, Maria Vetsera died under misterious circumstances at the Mayerling hunting
39. October 6, 1849.
40. Now Sadova, Czech., 1866. The Imperial army was soundly beaten
by the Prussians.
41. Prince Wilhelm von Wied (1876-1945). Within a year he fled the
country. Serbia occupied Albania during WW1. In 1920 President Wilson helped Albania to
regain her independence, but not without considerable territorial losses.
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