June 28, 2017

Dear Liberty,

     The first shot rang out as the crowd waved to the royal couple.  Before anyone could react, a second shot pieced the air.  As blood spurted from her husband’s month, Sophie screamed, “In Heaven’s name, what has happened to you?” before slumping to the floor of the car.  When Franz felt his wife’s head in his lap, he begged, “Sophie, Sophie, don’t die!  Stay alive for the children.”  However, the Serbian assassin’s bullets had already stolen both their lives.  Their bodies just didn’t know it yet.  

     As the car raced to the Governor’s residence, Sophie died of her wound to her abdomen.  Within 10 minutes of arriving at the home, Franz joined her in the afterlife.  The couple was murdered just three days before their 14th wedding anniversary on July 1st.  Instead of celebrating, mourners prepared their bodies for burial.  Likewise, as a result of their deaths, the world prepared for war.

     Archduke Franz Ferdinand was heir to the thrones of Austria and Hungry.  A member of the Imperial House of Habsburg, he was next in line for the crown as all other males, including his father, were deceased.  Once his uncle, Franz Joseph I, Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary, passed, Ferdinand would assume the throne which once ruled the Holy Roman Empire.  

     While visiting relatives in 1894, Ferdinand met the Archduchess Isabella’s lady-in-waiting, the lovely Countess Sophie Chotek. Though Sophie’s lineage includes those of Habsburg ancestry, they were not part of the lines of succession.  Therefore, she was not qualified to marry an heir to the throne.  Regardless, the two carried on a secret relationship for four years, upon which a major scandal erupted following it’s discovery.  Sophie was fired and Emperor Franz Joseph denied permission for a wedding.  Deeply in love, Ferdinand refused to marry anyone else.  

     Pope Leo XIII, Russian Tsar Nicholas II (see A Dynasty's Fall), and Germany’s Emperor Wilhelm II all encouraged Emperor Franz to reconsider.   They were concerned the dispute could further disrupt the already unstable monarchy, especially following the death of his own son, Crown Prince Rudolph.  Thirty-year-old Rudolph and his 17-year-old mistress committed suicide when his father demanded they end the relationship.  

     The monarchy could not withstand another scandal over love, so Emperor Franz relented and allowed Ferdinand and Sophie to wed.  However, Ferdinand would have to agree to a morganatic marriage.  This permitted him to remain in the line of succession, but his wife would never obtain his equal rank, sit or be near him at formal functions, ride with him in royal carriages, or be entitled to any royal privilege.  Likewise, their children would not be eligible to ascend the throne.  Ferdinand concurred and signed a paper on June 28, 1900, stating as much, with the wedding occurring on July 1st.  Upon his assassination exactly 14 years later, Ferdinand’s nephew became the Crown Prince, bypassing Ferdinand’s children.  

     Sophie accompanied Ferdinand on this trip as she feared for his safety.  While she normally wouldn’t be allowed to ride with him, she was tragically permitted here as the car was not a royal one.  As a result, she died at the side of her beloved husband.

     The events leading up to June 28, 1914, actually began on June 28, 1389, after the Battle of Kosovo.  During this fight, the Christian Serbian army was conquered by the Ottoman Empire. (see A Crusade For The Truth)  Serbia commemorates the fallen martyrs in the national and religious holiday on this date, called Vidovdan.  Serbia eventually regained their independence from the Ottoman Empire after declaring war on June 28, 1876.  However, on June 28, 1881, Serbia entered into a secret agreement with Austro-Hungary, which split up the Balkans, or the southeastern section of Europe.  The western part, which included Serbia, fell under Austrian control while the eastern part went to Russia.  Serbia was again under the thumb of someone else’s rule.

     With Ferdinand in line to preside over Austria, Serbian nationalists rejected his plans of federalism. Furthermore, he favored uniting all Austro-Hungarian Slavic lands under one new crown.  Nationalists desiring to restore their country’s independence formed the group “Black Hand”.  In early 1914, they plotted the assassination of Ferdinand in hopes of stopping his plans.  

     Ferdinand and Sophie arrived in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, to inspect the military troops and attend several other functions.  The Black Hand cell in the town placed six assassins  armed with bombs and pistols along the motorcade route.  On the drive to the Town Hall reception, one assassin managed to toss his bomb at their convertible, only to have it bounce off the collapsed roof and explode under the following car.

     After the reception, discussions ensued as to the how the day should proceed because of the assassination attempt.  It was agreed Ferdinand and his wife would forgo the remainder of the day’s events, electing instead to visit those injured in the earlier bombing.  However, no one told the drivers.  Traveling the originally designated course, the driver was not instructed to take a different road until en route.  While stopping to back up to make the turn, 19-year-old assassin, Gavrila Princip found himself five feet away from his target.  He removed his pistol from his coat and shot the couple point-blank.  He was quickly detained by police, beaten, and arrested.

     All six assassins, as well as other conspirators, were eventually arrested by Austro-Hungarian authorities and placed on trial.  However, Austria still wanted Serbia to conduct an investigation, believing they were responsible for the attack.  Contending the Serbian government had nothing to do with the assassination, they refused.  As tensions grew between the two, Serbia sought support from Russia while Austria obtained support from Germany.  On July 28th, Austro-Hungary declared war on Serbia.  Within weeks, Russia, Great Britain, France, and Belgium joined Serbia in the conflict against Austro-Hungary and Germany.   In August, Japan declared war on Germany and in October, Turkey entered to support Germany.  And so begins World War I, also known as “The Great War” and “The War To End All Wars”.

     After trying to stay neutral, Germany eventually pushed America to declare war on April 6, 1917.  (see The Day America’s Neutrality Sank).  The war continued until late 1918, when the Central Powers individually began surrendering to the Allied Forces.  Germany held out until November 11th, signing an Armistice (see Veterans’ Day), until the Treaty of Versailles officially ended the war on June 28, 1919, the 5th anniversary of Archduke Ferdinand and Sophie’s assassinations.  (see The Forgotten General)

     Liberty, we read such stories and believe that history can never repeat itself.  Yet since President Donald Trump’s election, there have been multiple references to and outright calls for his assassination.  In a music video, Rapper Snoop Dogg shoots a clown dressed as Trump, while at the Women’s March in Washington D.C. the day after Trump’s inauguration, singer Madonna confessed she has “thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House”.  Other celebrities have expressed, “it’s time for another presidential assassination,” with the most recent occurring a few days ago by Johnny Depp.  Even The Public Theater in New York rewrote Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar so a Trump look-alike “Caesar” is brutally stabbed during the assassination scene.  However, instead of causing outrage, they were just rewarded with $100,000 in federal grant money from the National Endowment for the Arts.

     I’m sure the Black Hand never anticipated their actions would send the world to war, but it did.  They just wanted their country to be free again.  Likewise, those calling for Trump’s assassination don’t want the world at war either.  In fact, they likely believe his death would prevent war.  However, the world is just as unstable now as it was in 1914, and several countries would jump at the opportunity of an America in chaos.

     This is why we should always pray for the safety of our leaders no matter how we feel about them politically.  Paul tells us in Romans 13:1, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”  This in no way means we should abandon our principles, yet to wish for the intentional death of a government official, or for that matter anyone, would be rejecting God’s will and imposing our own.  As we know, from the first time it was tried in the Garden of Eden, that has never worked out. (see Fruit Of The Forbidden Tree)

     Liberty, find comfort in the fact that God is and always will be in control.  Continue to fight for liberty and freedom through educating yourself and others.  As Solomon tells us, there is “a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:8)  However, we must do our best to submit to God’s timing in the affairs, and not force our own as the Serbs did.  As we discover, it can have devastating world changing effects.

     That’s my 2 cents.