Thursday, November 29, 2012
Battlefield Royal: Archduke Friedrich, Duke of Teschen
When he inherited the estate of his godfather in 1895, Archduke Friedrich became the wealthiest man in all the realms of the House of Hapsburg. He proved an extremely capable businessman, acquiring other properties and business interests until he dominated whole industries. Widely admired and respected, in 1905 Emperor Francis Joseph made him Inspector-General of the troops and after receiving further awards and honors, he and his family moved to Vienna where he was put in command of the Landwehr, the Austrian militia (a relatively new formation compared to the older and more famous Prussian Landwehr) which was somewhat limited in scope. Due to the nature of the multi-national Hapsburg empire, the emperors tended to be reluctant to embrace the idea of pan-empire armed militia. The Archduke was also promoted to General of the Infantry. He was well respected across Europe and Emperor Francis Joseph held him in the highest regard, appreciating his more conservative nature compared to his nephew and heir Archduke Francis Ferdinand, whose ideas for change tended to worry the monarch. The Emperor was more reassured to have Archduke Friedrich on hand to take charge of the military should war break out.
The Emperor needed Friedrich more than ever and promptly promoted him to command of the whole army as war broke out with Serbia and soon began to engulf almost the whole of Europe. Despite was some detractors might claim, Archduke Friedrich was probably more qualified than even he himself believed. However, from the start it was expected that the actual planning would be done by his chief of staff, Conrad von Hoetzendorf, whom the Archduke was perfectly willing to give a free hand and who was also widely respected as a strategist. The Archduke was promoted to General Field Marshal and German Kaiser Wilhelm II also gave him the same rank in his own army as he had nothing but respect for the grand, old Archduke. This was important as, when German commander General Erich von Falkenhayn clashed with Conrad von Hoetzendorf over strategy on the eastern front, Archduke Friedrich was able to intervene with the German Kaiser to obtain support for the Austrian position. This was all the more important to the war effort since Emperor Francis Joseph could not have done so himself, monarch to monarch, as he was not terribly fond of his German counterpart, viewing him (like his late nephew) as too given to change. It is no exaggeration to say that, on at least one occasion, it was Archduke Friedrich who prevent Conrad von Hoetzendorf from losing his job.