Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand
Catalogue reference: FO 371/2158

This Document is the Property of His Britannic Majesty's Government.
__July 6__
No. 1.

Mr. Crackanthorpe to Sir Edward Grey. - (Received July 6.)

(No. 120. Confidential.)
Belgrade, July 2, 1914.

          I HAVE the honour to report that the news of the assassination of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his consort, the Duchess of Hohenburg, at Sarajevo, produced in Belgrade a sensation of stupefaction rather than one of regret. The feeling most noticeable, especially among official circles, is one of apprehension lest too severe measures of repression should be exercised against the Serbs in Bosnia and in those parts of the Monarchy where the Serb element is preponderant. Such measures would, it is feared, excite public opinion in Servia, and be made the occasion of anti-Austrian demonstrations, which would not fail to bring about a tension in the relations between the two countries, and lead to serious complications.
          Last Sunday, the day on which the assassination took place, happened to be the 525th anniversary of the battle of Kossovo, when the defeat of the Servians by the Turks brought about the downfall of the Servian empire of Dushan. This anniversary was hitherto kept in Servia as a day of national mourning, but this year, for the first time, it was made the occasion of a national fête, owing to the defeat of the Turks by the Servian army in 1912 and the requisition by Servia of Old Servia and Kossovo. The day was therefore celebrated throughout Servia, and many Servians and Croatians from over the border came to Belgrade to participate in the rejoicings, which took the form of patriotic processions through the streets of the town. When the news of the assassination were spread in Belgrade (at about 8pm) the Servian Government, fearing lest, in the heat of the excitement aroused by the patriotic rejoicings which were taking place, the chauvinist element might lend an anti-Austrian colour to the demonstrations, issued an order to the effect that, as a sign of mourning, all places of entertainment, including cafés, should turn out lights and close at 10 o'clock.

          In its issue of the 29th instant the Government organ "Somourprava" published a leading article expressing deep regret for the sad event, condemning the murder of the Archduke, and stating that it could be the act of some irresponsible maniac. The organ of the principal opposition party (Independent Radicals), in its number of the same date, however, although it made use of expressions of regret, gave utterance to the opinion that it was an error of judgment for the Archduke to attend manoeuvres in Bosnia, the palpable object of which was to rehearse the defence of that province against a Serbo-Montenegrin attack, and to hold parades in a center of Serbism like Sarajevo just at the moment when patriotic rejoicings were taking place in the Servian capital.
          The secretary-general of the Servian Foreign Office, whom I saw this morning, while disclaiming for the Servian Government all responsibility for the crime, used language very similar to this. I am informed in confidence by my Italian colleague that an interview of considerable violence took place between M. Grouitch and the Austrian Chargé d'Affaires on the occasion of the latter's visit to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to return thanks for M. Grouitch's call of condolence. It appears that M. de Storck asked the Secretary-General unofficially whether the Servian Government did not consider it advisable to hold an investigation into the circumstances of the crime in view of the fact that both prisoners had recently been in Belgrade. This was apparently much resented by M. Grouitch, as implying responsibility for the crime on the part of the Servian Government. High words ensued, and for the moment relations between the Austrian legation and the Servian Ministry for Foreign Affairs are very strained.

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