The Lions of July: Prelude to War, 1914

The Lions of July: Prelude to War, 1914

The Lions of July: Prelude to War, 1914

The Lions of July: Prelude to War, 1914


The Lions of July concentrates on the central characters and events of those months before the declaration of war in August 1914 and reveals the intrigues, subterfuges, miscalculations and mistakes that were to cost the world dear.


Encounter in Meran, 1926

In the summer of 1926, Prince Karl Max Lichnowsky, Germany's former ambassador to Great Britain, was walking on the promenade of the Tyrolian resort town of Meran when he saw a tall, elegant figure coming toward him. It was Count Leopold von Berchtold, Austria-Hungary's former foreign minister and the man widely regarded as the irresponsible grand seigneur who had set Europe aflame by declaring war on Serbia twelve years earlier. The prince pretended not to see Berchtold, but the count bore down on him; a meeting was unavoidable.

In his own country, Prince Lichnowsky was almost as despised as Count Berchtold because he had publicly declared that Germany's handling of the July crisis in 1914 had been a disaster. Lichnowsky never forgave the "criminal idiocy" of his government's stubborn support of Austria-Hungary, and he regarded Berchtold as the man who had dragged Germany into the Great War. The prince walked steadily on.

Berchtold could see that Lichnowsky was trying to avoid him. Nonetheless, with grave courtesy, Berchtold presented himself to the hapless prince. "I know that you might not want to speak to me," Berchtold said, "but I have something important to tell you." What Berchtold said, Lichnowsky later wrote a friend, was that he "never would have taken so hard a line on Serbia if he had not been constantly pressured to do so by Berlin." Berlin's actions, Berchtold insisted, gave him no reason to suppose that Germany opposed a general war.

Having unburdened himself, Berchtold continued on his way. The postwar recriminations among the survivors were in full swing.

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