Austro-Hungarian Red Book: Count Berchtold to Emperor Franz Joseph, 27 July 1914

The following is JulyCrisis1914’s two hundredth post. For close to a year and a half, with a few documents every week, we have traced the development of the 1914 July Crisis as it happened. Today, with this two hundredth post, we examine one of the key documents of the July Crisis. Below is the approval of the Austro-Hungarian declaration of war against Serbia by the Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph.

On 27 July 1914, the Austro-Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Leopold Count Berchtold, sent a report to the Austro-Hungarian, Emperor Franz Joseph (picture). The report asks for approval of the Austro-Hungarian declaration of war against Serbia. The Emperor, from his summer retreat at Bad Ischl, made no objections.

Franz Joseph

Immediate Report of Count Berchtold. Vienna, 27 July 1914.

I take the deferential liberty to lay before Your Majesty the enclosed details for a telegram to the Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs, which contains the declaration of war, and also take the liberty to suggest that Your Majesty will authorise me to send it off tomorrow morning, and to cause the official announcement of the declaration of war to be published in Vienna and in Budapest at the same time.

The Note, which [the Serbian Prime Minister] Herr Pasic presented to the Imperial and Royal Minister, Baron Giesl being cleverly composed so that although its content is valueless, its form is most courteous, does not let it seem improbable that the Powers of the Triple Entente will make one more effort to bring about a peaceful solution of the conflict, unless by an early declaration of war we make the situation clear.

According to a report of the 4th Corps-command, Serbian troops on Danube steamers near Temes-Kubin fired at our troops, who also gave fire, so that the encounter lasted some time. Hostilities have therefore begun and it is advisable that we should give our army that freedom of motion, to which it has a right, when the state of war has been proclaimed.

The notification of the state of war would, if Your Majesty approves, be sent to the neutral Powers through their representatives here at the same time as the declaration of war.

I take the liberty to mention that His Imperial and Royal Highness Chief Commander of the Balkan Forces, Archduke Friedrich, and also the Chief of the General Staff [Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf] make no objection to the declaration of war being sent off tomorrow morning.

In profound reverence,


I approve of the enclosed draught of a telegram to the Serbian Foreign Office, containing the declaration of war to Serbia, and authorise you to do as you propose.

Ischl, July 28, 1914.

(signed) Franz Joseph. 

Draught of Declaration of war [translated from the French]

Telegram in Claris to the Royal Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Vienna, 28 July 1914.

The Royal government of Serbia, having not answered the Note, which had been presented to it on 23 July 1914, in a satisfactory manner, the Imperial and Royal government finds itself in the necessity to ensure its rights and interests and for this purpose to have recourse to the force of arms, all the more because Serbian troops have already attacked a detachment of the Imperial and Royal Army near Temes-Kubin. Austria-Hungary therefore, from this moment, considers itself in a state of war with Serbia.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Austria-Hungary

Count Berchtold


(signed) Franz Joseph.

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


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