Austro-Hungarian Red Book: Count Mensdorff to Count Berchtold, 24 July 1914

On 24 July 1914, the Austro-Hungarian Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Albert Count Mensdorff (pictured), sent a coded private telegram to the Austro-Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Leopold Count Berchtold. In his telegram, Mensdorff refers to a conversation he had with the British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey on the subject of the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum to Serbia.

Albert Count Mensdorff

Albert Count Mensdorff

Count Mensdorff to Count Berchtold. London, 24 July 1914.


In addition to yesterday’s telegram [see post].

Just presented the circular note [i.e. the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum to Serbia] to [the British Foreign Secretary] Sir Edward Grey, who read it through attentively. Arrived at Point 5, he asked how the following was to be understood: “Organs of our government to be placed in Servia”. This would put an end to Servia’s independence as a State. I answered that the collaboration of police-organs for instance does not touch a State’s sovereignty.

The Foreign Secretary repeated the objections he raised yesterday on account of the shortness of the term, which does not allow other States time to use their influence. He called our Note to Servia the most formidable document that was ever addressed from one State to another, but at the same time admitted, that in what it said on the guilt of Servia in the crime of Sarajevo, some of our demands were fully justified.

What appear to be his objections are: Point 5, the shortness of the term, and the fact that the Note, so to say, dictates the answer.

What makes him seriously anxious is the possible effect upon the peace of Europe. If there were no danger to that, he would be quite prepared to consider the affair as solely regarding Austria-Hungary and Servia. But he confesses to being most “apprehensive” that several Great Powers might become involved in a war. Speaking of Russia, Germany and France, he remarked, that he believed the conditions of the alliance between France and Russia were very much the same as those between the Powers of the Triple Alliance.

I laid our point of view before him very explicitly, used all the arguments of your telegram of 23 July, and repeated that we must remain firm, to obtain some guarantees of good faith, since in the past, Servian promises had never been kept. I told him that I perfectly understood that to him the whole question appealed in the light of danger to Europe’s peace, but that I must ask him to also consider our point of view and put himself in our place.

He would not continue to discuss this theme, and promised to study the Note more closely and to attempt whatever could be done to avert the threatening danger. He began by calling to his presence the German and French ambassadors. He said that he must first of all speak to the allies of Austria-Hungary and Russia, who have no interests of their own in Servia.

He repeated several times in the course of conversation, that he was very anxious about the maintaining of the peace between the Great Powers.


Source: 1919 Austro-Hungarian Red Book, with minor edits.


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