Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg and the Belgian Royal Family

Yesterday was a sorrowful centennial, marking a hundred years since the murder of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, by Serbian nationalists in Sarajevo.  As is known all too well, the killing triggered the First World War.  Above is a lovely pastel painting of the assassin's less well-known victim, the Archduke's beloved, morganatic wife, Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg.  Below is a photograph of the couple with their three surviving children.  Sophie died along with her husband, just a few days before their fourteenth wedding anniversary.   Here is an article on their tender courtship, loving marriage, and tragic deaths.   Here is an interview with a great-granddaughter of the couple.

I cannot help noting that there are a number of connections and similarities between the lives of Franz Ferdinand and Sophie and those of the Kings and Queens of the Belgians.  The Archduke and his wife were married on July 1, 1900, only three months before the wedding of Prince Albert and Princess Elisabeth of Belgium on October 1, 1900.  The terrorist actions that claimed the lives of Franz Ferdinand and his wife led to horrific suffering for the people of Belgium, dragged as innocent bystanders into the world war.  The King and Queen of the Belgians and their children suffered bitterly through the war with their people. The double tragedy of the loss of husband and wife reminds me of the shock of the traumatic deaths of King Albert I and Queen Astrid in rapid succession.  Like many of the Belgian royal family, the Archduke and his wife seem to have been decent, devout people, with a loving marriage and family life.  Like Princess Lilian of Belgium, Sophie bore the humiliations of her status as a morganatic bride with dignity.  Like Queen Astrid, she was rumored to have been pregnant at the time of her death.