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.
Count Mensdorff to Count Berchtold. London, 24 July 1914.
Ultimatum to Servia. My German colleague [i.e. the German Ambassador to London, Karl Max Prince Lichnowsky] has spoken with [the British Foreign Secretary] Sir Edward Grey, and according to instructions, communicated the German point of view.
The Foreign Secretary showed himself much perplexed and disquieted. Never before had such language been addressed to an independent State. He criticised the form of the Note [i.e. the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum to Serbia] more than the contents, and repeated that the brevity of time granted for an answer, made every attempt at influencing Servia impossible. If the German government agreed with him, he would propose a prolongation of the term, and still attempt something.
If it was only a question between Austria-Hungary and Servia, the Foreign Secretary would not be concerned about it. He had not heard from Petersburg as yet, but where the Slavs came in with their sympathies, advice was of no avail.
The German ambassador condensed the conversation to this: Sir Edward Grey is one with us in the wish to localise the conflict between us and Servia.
Should a conflict arise between us and Russia, he would like to attempt a mediation à quatre (England, Germany, France and Italy) to conciliate Vienna and Petersburg.
[Edward Grey’s private secretary Wiliam] Tyrrell told Lichnowsky that it was not to be thought of, that Servia would accept. Austria-Hungary underrates Servia and will lose much blood there; Roumania’s attitude might be expected to become exceedingly hostile.
Source: 1919 Austro-Hungarian Red Book, with minor edits.