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As late as June 27, 1914, US President Woodrow Wilson's emissary, Colonel Edward House, seriously concerned about the possibility of a European War, had come all the way from America to meet with Sir Edward Grey, HH Asquith and others in London:"The political situation in Great Britain was almost as confused as that in Paris. The country was in a state approaching civil war on the question of Home Rule for Ireland; the suffragettes were threatening to dynamite the Houses of Parliament; and the eternal struggle between the Liberal and the Conservative elements was raging with unprecedented virulence.
"A European war was far from everybody's mind. It was this utter inability to grasp the realities of the European situation which proved the main impediment to Colonel House's work in England.
"He met all the important people---Mr. Asquith, Mr. Lloyd George, Sir Edward Grey, and others. With them he discussed his 'pact' proposal in great detail.
"Naturally, ideas of this sort were listened to sympathetically by statesmen of the stamp of Asquith, Grey, and Lloyd George. The difficulty, however, was that none of these men apprehended an immediate war. They saw no necessity of hurrying about the matter. They had the utmost confidence in Prince Lichnowsky, the German Ambassador in London, and Von Bethmann-Hollweg, the German Chancellor.
"Both these men were regarded by the Foreign Office as guarantees against a German attack; their continuance in their office was looked upon as an assurance that Germany entertained no immediately aggressive plans.
"Though the British statesmen did not say so definitely, the impression was conveyed that the mission on which Colonel House was engaged was an unnecessary one---a preparation against a danger that did not exist."(70) [italics added]
The next day the Archduke was killed in Sarajevo.
"On Monday 29 June the Sarajevo outrage was front-page news in London, reported with all the verve and gusto one expected of Fleet Street... By Monday afternoon, however, the City of London had recovered it's footing. On Tuesday, even the globally minded Times had shunted Sarajevo back to page 7. The Balkan drama did merit an editorial that day [writing] ..it should not unduly concern anyone in Britain, where 'our own affairs must be addressed.' By the following Monday, a Times editorial wrote off the Sarajevo incident as old history: it was no longer a matter 'of European significance.' By 'our own affairs,' the Times meant Ireland..."(71)
Is it any wonder how a distracted British Foreign Office was so taken by surprise by how quickly events ramped up across the channel? Did Whitehall need its own British Schlieffen Plan? The key point is while the mandarins in Whitehall determinedly faced west struggling to manage a rapidly growing militant Ulster Crisis threatening to become a Civil War, that behind their backs - in the opposite direction across the channel the June 28th news from Sarajevo quickly created what became a vastly more dangerous Krakatoa-sized European political volcano whose core pressure expanded at a furious pace, hour by hour, until it exploded sky-high in late July 1914.
- Constrained Reaction of British Newspapers:
As mentioned, Britain's alliance with Russia constrained it in that in any conflict between Austria-Hungary and Russia, Britain had to take Russia's side. So after the June 28th regicide carried out by Serbia, Britain had to try and figure out some way to stay allied with Russia by not taking Austria's side. The Manchester Guardian, 29 June 1914:
"A character sketch. The Archduke was a simple and amiable man, but very passionate, and, in anger, incalculable.
"...in anger, incalculable." Obviously true of the assassin.
"He was more than strong-willed; he was extremely obstinate and resolved to have his own way at any cost."(72)
Obviously true of the assassin.
That was like throwing gasoline on a fire. Weren't those the character traits the assassin would have to have to carry out a killing? Meanwhile the Guardian described the assassin as a "...student..."
"Assassination at Sarajevo.
"Austro-Hungarian empire in 1914:
1. Sarajevo was in Bosnia, the province that - to Serbia's anger - had been annexed by Austria-Hungary in 1908.
"That day - 28 June 1914 - was also Serbia's National Day. Franz Ferdinand's visit was a direct insult to the Serbs."(73)
The BBC may have managed to appease the Russian alliance, but was less convincing at condemming the regicide. Why did British newspapers fancy that sort of coverage would help maintain a European peace? By writing in a somewhat distaff and inflammatory way, Britain may have avoided angering Russia, but at the risk of angering Austria instead. And Germany was Austria-Hungary's ally. So how clever was that?
British newspaper coverage may have angered Germany as well. It was one of Britain's worst mistakes at the very beginning of the July 1914 Crisis. To hope to avoid angering an ally by mightly struggling to avoid condemming a regicide put a chokehold on British credibility/claims of impartiality. It was almost as if Britain had given Russia a "blank check" to do whatever it or it's protectorate state Serbia wanted.
The British newspaper, the Telegraph, to its everlasting credit, wrote, “We can only say that in this country we are all united in a common feeling of sorrow for the bereaved sufferers and of detestation for a cowardly murder which has shocked the conscience of the whole world.”
However, on June 29, 2014 the Telegraph notes:
"Yet, despite some fears - 'the consequences of the outrage may, it is feared here, be many and perilous' comes the report from Paris - there is little in the Telegraph’s extensive coverage...to suggest this might be the outcome."(74)
The strategy of the British newspapers seemed to be to loudly but very briefly condemm the regicide, and then, to avoid angering Russia, consign the story to the middle or back pages. It was London's way of trying to localize the effects of the regicide. By the end of July even London was beginning to realize that attempting to appease Russia at the expense of angering Austria-Hungary and Germany was maybe not its "finest hour."
- Delayed reaction of British gov't officials to the June 28th regicide:In receipt of the June 28th news, Sir Eyre Crowe, British Assistant Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs, found himself unable to get a grip on the European situation for a solid month. His eyes fixed on next-door Ulster, Crowe waited until July 27th to send Grey a memo warning him about a "action-reaction" mobilization cycle across the channel. An action reaction cycle is when one side mobilizes its military and as a defensive response the other side mobilizes it's military. This action-reaction cycle has been a problem since the invention of nation states and standing armies in proximity. The problem is that offensive mobilizations can appear virtually identical to defensive mobilizations. Then one side (or more) can say their mobilization is purely defensive when in fact they are mobilizing to attack. The more sober-minded mandarins at Whitehall really should have known decades before, if not centuries before, that mobilization action-reaction cycles were a present and permanent danger anywhere there are 2 or more opposed states with standing armies in proximity. Instead Crowe tries to characterize it as something intrinsic to Austria, as if he was hoping he would not be seen as waking up a month too late to the danger:"I am afraid that the real difficulty to be overcome will be found in the question of mobilization. Austria is already mobilizing. This, if the war does come, is a serious menace to Russia, who cannot be expected to delay her own mobilization which, as it is, can only become effective in something like double the time required by Austria and Germany. "If Russia mobilizes, we have been warned that Germany will do the same, and as German mobilization is directed almost entirely against France, the latter cannot possibly delay her own mobilization even for the fraction of a day. This however means that within 24 hours His Majesty's Government will be faced with the question whether, in a quarrel so imposed by Austria on an unwilling France, Great Britain will stand idly aside, or take sides."(75)Exactly right. The only problem is Eyre Crowe waited for an entire month before warning the tennis champ about it. It was a capital blunder because by then the Austrian Ultimatum - a declaration of preventative war - had been sent already. From the June 28th news onwards, Grey and Crowe were men struggling to awaken from a very bad dream. The origin of the bad dream was Britain's insulation from the big reaction of Austria-Hungary to the June 28th news, and Russia's reaction to Austria-Hungary's reaction.
The tennis champ's inaction until the very end of July all but destroyed any chances Britain may have had of offering to arbitrate the situation to keep the crisis localized. Upon receipt of the June 28th news, Lord Northcliffe (the influential publisher of the Daily Mail) also froze, waiting until the very last day in July to print:"The Austrian onslaught... will, it is to be feared, draw Russia into the field... in turn this will be followed by German action. Germany's entrance will compel France...”(76)Exactly right again. But Northcliffe was was frozen in place for over a month before printing his warning, by then too late to keep the Austria-Serbian Crisis localized. Reading his text, it is almost as if Northcliffe knew he waited too long to sound the alarm and was in part trying to cover his month of paralysis. All these men seem to have the exact same problem: upon receipt of the June 28th news they are unable to react for a period stretching across 3 weeks to over a month. After which point they sound a bit like a newly-formed chorus club. The danger of a potential upcoming Austrian mobilization may have began immediately upon receipt of the June 28th news in Vienna. That was over a month before. Considering Northcliffe's political connections, if he'd realized it earlier he should have immediately gone to see Asquith and Grey and discussed his fears. That might have helped spur Grey to Paris quickly enough to offer to arrange a meeting so as to delay or prevent what became the Austrian Ultimatum on July 23rd.
Having been in receipt of the June 28th news for over a month, British King George V on August 1st makes an official announcement:
"The King, in view of the gravity of the situation, has definitely abandoned his visit to Cowes for the regatta."(77)
"King and the Crisis"
"Cowes Visit Abandoned""Before the present crisis arose his Majesty had arranged to go to Cowes to-day, remaining there until Monday week. This engagement, it is officially announced, will not now be fulfilled..."(78)
"George complained to his younger son that he’d had to cancel...his annual trip to Goodwood races, and was regretting the loss of his weekend sailing at Cowes."(78a)
At receipt of the June 28th news all 3 Brits - including King George V - reacted as if they had fallen into quicksand. They could not believe what was happening on the Continent until it was too late to stop it. To a man, they were pre-occupied with Britain's domestic affairs, the serious Ulster Crisis and overseas commercial business opportunities - not to mention their multifarious "non-London" essential playtime activities.
________________________________________________________________Upon receipt of the June 28th news, George Buchanan, the British Ambassador to Russia, by his own admission, seems amazingly out of touch with events in Russia until as late as July 23rd, the same day Austria issues the ultimatum to Serbia:
"As several weeks had elapsed since the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand without any move on Austria's part, there seemed reason to hope that she had renounced the idea of any punitive action. I had myself been granted leave of absence and had already taken tickets for our journey to England."(79)
__________________________"...there seemed reason to hope..."? God save England. This was exactly what the British Ambassador was not supposed to do. His job was to do everything in his power that he could to help make certain - more than certain - the Austria-Serbia mess would not expand into a General War before he went anywhere.
On the exact same day Austria sends the Ultimatium to Serbia, Ambassador Buchanan is ready to go home, and made reservations. The Ambassador's actions read like science fiction.
Starting from just before June 28th 1914, rifling the records of the House of Commons shows virtually no discussion of the Austria-Serbia Crisis until the end of July. Condolences by the Prime Minister Asquith are noted on June 29th, as well as several very brief remarks on the Austrian "occupation" problem in the Balkans. And then there is a complete blank.
Even placing "Hotzendorf" into Hansard's search engine reveals "No returns."(80) Placing "Servia" (Serbia) into Hansard's search engine reveals nothing from July 1, 1914 until July 27, 1914, the key month.(81) Is it any wonder Whitehall was so taken by surprise when the Austria-Serbian Crisis blew up?The records of the House of Commons in July 1914 show a Parliament more or less overwhelmed with the prospect of a Civil War in Ireland plus a thousand different ongoing business and domestic situations clamoring for attention. From there it is easy to see how Britain's acclaimed "splendid isolation" did just that, only this time in reverse, effectively clamping the Foreign Office off behind the Channel, far away from Austria-Hungary's instantaneous serious reaction to the June 28th news, and Russia's reaction to Austria-Hungary's reaction. From there on it is more or less all downhill.
________________________________________________________________As late as July 28th the British Prime Minister HH Asquith - although exactly what he is prime minister of remains unclear - finally weighs in. He also seems strikingly unable to come to grips with with is happening across the channel vis-a-vis Austria-Hungary and Russia:"Mr. Bonar Law: I wish to ask the Prime Minister if he has any information he can communicate on the European situation. The Prime Minister [HH Asquith]: There are no new developments sufficiently definite to enable any further statements to be made, but we can hope that no unfavorable inference will be drawn from this. I cannot say more. Lord Hugh Cecil: Can the right hon. Gentleman say if hostilities have broken out? The Prime Minister: We have no definite information about that."(82) ________________________________________________________________As for what the tennis champ was doing during this most important political month in the history of the human race, on July 10th he leisurely strolls over to the House of Commons and throws out the following remark:If Grey was trying to give an excuse for why he was not paying greater attention to the extant Austria-Serbia Crisis, all that can be said is he should really have known by then that if another crisis breaks out on the continent it may be markedly different from all the previous crises he helped successfully resolve. And it might also be markedly more difficult to settle. And depending upon the mood of the various Great Powers at the moment it might have to be arbitrated much quicker. Grey continues with a very long speech describing Britain's manifold offshore commercial activities. Considering that at that exact moment the Austria-Serbia Crisis was blowing up, the Foreign Office should have formed its responsibilities into 2 tiers, with security concerns (assuming the physical survival of the British people is at least as important as "obtaining commercial consessions") addressed prior to commercial opportunities available across the moat:
"But I would ask anyone to put himself in the place of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs...We are told we are to promote British commerce all over the world. That, of course, is one of the first duties of the Foreign Office..."It is not merely that we are to encourage and protect trade which exists, but we are to open up other avenues of trade, and in each particular corner, whether it is Asia Minor, Persia, or China, where we obtain a concession we are to achieve more and greater success than any other country in the world. That is a very considerable task."(83)
"Late on Friday evenings he would rush from the Foreign Office to Waterloo station and catch the train to the cathedral city....This Hampshire riverbank was the private idyll of the Foreign Secretary...On July 18... a note in spidery fountain pen from his Itchen log records that he caught three fish with a total weight of 3lb1oz, and six more weighing under a pound which he released back."(84)
____________________________________________________As for what the British Cabinet was doing throughout July, the then-Chancellor of the Exchequer, David Lloyd George [British Prime Minister 1916-1922] weighs in:"I cannot recall any discussion on the subject [the June 28th regicide] in the Cabinet until the Friday evening before the final declaration of war by Germany."And see:
"We were much more concerned with the threat of imminent civil war in the North of Ireland. The situation there absorbed our thoughts, and constituted the subject-matter for the major part of our deliberations.
"A Cabinet which was compelled by political and economic exigencies to concentrate its energies on domestic problems left the whole field of foreign affairs to Sir Edward Grey."(85)
"The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand did not immediately cause a reaction in Britain. David Lloyd George admitted that he heard the news he suspected that it would result in a war in the Balkans but did not believe such a conflict would involve Britain.
"He also pointed out that the Cabinet, although it was meeting twice a day, because of the crisis in Ireland, they did not even discuss the issue of Serbia and the assassination for another three weeks."(86) [italics added]
________________________________________________________________As for the House of Lords, they were on what must have started as an enjoyable holiday, the Hansard record indicating closed May 1914, closed June 1914, and closed July 1st to July 19th. Even as late as on July 20th, the first day the House of Lords was back at work, there was no discussion of the Austria/Serbian/Russian Crisis.(87)
There is a complete blank from May 1st until July 27th, when the Lord Privy Seal and Secretary of State for (The Marquess of Crewe) stated:
"Sir Edward Grey had no information as to how the situation was regarded by the Russian Government..."(88)
That is almost impossible to believe, considering Russia was Serbia's most powerful ally, as well as being Britain's ally.
_____________________________________________________By July 27th the tennis champ was only beginning to wake up to the gravity of the situation across the channel:
"It must be obvious to any person who-reflects upon the situation that the moment the dispute ceases to be one between Austria-Hungary and Servia and becomes one in which another Great Power is involved, it can but end in the greatest catastrophe that has ever befallen the Continent of Europe at one blow: no one can say what would be the limit of the issues that might be raised by such a conflict, the consequences of it, direct and; indirect would be incalculable."(89)
"..it can but end in the greatest catastrophe that has ever befallen the Continent of Europe at one blow..."
Grey seemed not to realize for an entire month that any conflict between Austria-Hungary and Serbia could suddenly involve Serbia's protector Russia. The danger of a Great Power - Russia - becoming involved began on the morning of the regicide, on June 28th.
Britain was perfectly aware how incredibly unstable Russia's ally Serbia was. For Britain to ally itself with Russia in 1907 indicates just how desperate and terrified Britain must have been of Germany's expanding military/industrial power.
The position of this website is that the possibility of the July 1914 Austria-Serbian Crisis quickly expanding if Russia backs Serbia, and Germany backs Austria, which could mean risking France, and then possibly dragging the British Empire into a major European war (including risking destruction of all the major civilizations/aristocracies on the continent) was what should have pushed Grey instantly to Paris/Vienna upon receipt of the potentially formidable June 28th news.
- Reaction of British Foreign Secretary to the June 28th regicide:The split-second British Foreign Secretary Edward Grey received the 6pm telegram relaying the June 28th news he should have risen from his desk at the Foreign Office and headed straight to Paris/Vienna to set up a tentative meeting of the representatives of the Great Powers. The Foreign Secretary knew perfectly well Russia was massively armed and a strong ally of Serbia.
"...on 30 June, 2 days after the Sarajevo incident, the [Russian] General Staff, under pressure from Tsar Nicholas II, approved the dispatch of 120,000 three-line rifles, with 120 million rounds, to Serbia."(90)
If Grey was organized, he would have had the travel arrangements made long ago, ready the moment he needed them.
"When, in the wake of the Sarajevo assassinations, it became clear in London that the government in Austria intended demanding 'some compensation in the sense of some humiliation for Serbia', Grey's first reaction was to worry how Russia might react...
"The Russian ambassador in Vienna made it clear as early as 8 July that 'Russia would be compelled to take up arms in defence of Serbia' if Austria 'rushed into war...'"(91)
Regicide is a serious danger, and if what happened to Austria-Hungary in Sarajevo had happened to one of the other Great Powers, the reaction might have been rather intense as well.
Thus, the British Foreign Secretary wasting zero time arriving in Paris, or preferably Vienna after the June 28th news would have almost certainly impressed the representatives of the other Great Powers to be a bit less resistant to an informal meeting. At least he wasn't sitting around in London expecting them to all to travel to Britain to arbitrate the crisis. The Queen's Received English might have been peachy for the Empire, but the official diplomatic language was French.
Grey would have to impress upon the representatives that he wasn't trying to interfere, it was only that the alliance/entente/treaty systems in Europe gave even local crises the ability to expand very fast by unwittingly dragging the Great Powers in if they weren't promptly resolved. Just because previous continental crises had taken up to a year to successfully resolve is no assurance that future crises would fit the same template.It would have be clear to the other Great Powers that this time the tennis champ was not going to waste time sitting around in London or fishing/birdwatching/chasing women (as he had done before), hoping on occasion to drop into the Foreign Office and with a tiny telegraph wire from behind the Channel make recommendations on how to localize European crises.
- Conclusion:Throughout July 1914 a British Prime Minister, HH Asquith, aka "Squiff" for his love of the bottle, was simultaneously distracted by both a huge crisis in Ulster sucking all the air out of British newspapers, the Suffragettes, and an equally huge crush on his 27-year-old Venetia Stanley. PM Asquith would end up writing an astonishing 560 love letters to her, often 3 times a day, even during fierce cabinet disagreements and meetings:“Asquith, though, began to claim more of Venetia’s time. Often they took drives in his new Napier on Friday afternoons to the more rural parts of London – Richmond, Roehampton or Hampstead. They would meet from time to time at luncheon or dinner parties. Sometimes he would call on her in the early evening at her parents’ house in Mansfield Street and she would often visit the Asquiths in Downing Street.”(122)As A. Adonis puts it:"As late as 24 July, at the end of a letter mostly about the Ulster crisis, Asquith simply notes: “Happily there seems to be no reason why we should be anything more than spectators [in any European conflict].”(123)Spectators indeed. July 1914 was the last summer of the British Empire. More like the Last Supper.(124) By July 29 Serbia had mobilized, von Hotzendorf had received orders for a partial Austrian mobilization, Austria-Hungary had declared war on Serbia. Bombardment of Belgrade began; the Russian Steamroller mobilised on the Austrian frontier. On July 31st Austria-Hungary ordered general mobilisation and Germany moved to a ‘state of imminent threat of war.'
On August 1st, the next evening, Whitehall's Foreign Secretary, former tennis champ Edward Grey could be found playing billiards at Brooks.(125)
Adonis continues:August 1, 1914 The Daily Telegraph reports:
"It is evident that Asquith did not appreciate the magnitude of the European crisis until 1 August, three days before the German invasion of Belgium. Until the day before, he had been planning to attend a weekend house party with Stanley in Anglesey. Grey was also at his country house for weekends in July."(126)
"Mr. Asquith cancelled his week-end visit to Chester..."(127)August 2 France declares a state of siege.
Not to be distracted, Asquith writes his mistress Venetia Stanley.(128)
Not to be outdone, Grey "...went off to London zoo to look at the birds."(129)
"Herbert Henry Asquith’s weekend has been ruined. The 62 year old prime minister had planned to go away with Miss Venetia Stanley (26), but the crisis is keeping him in London."(130)
24 hours later Germany declares war on France and the British Army mobilizes for war.
As theorized at the outset, it is monstrously apparent that from June 28th throughout all July to at least early August 1914, Whitehall was caught firmly in the sharp talons of a leisure-class emotional mentality. As far as political events on the Continent were concerned, the seat of the most stable civil gov't government on Earth was effectively rendered AWOL by a squad of leisure-addicted gentlemen: "Even on August 5 1914, the day World War I was declared, Asquith found time to pen Venetia a tender missive."(131)
The British christened their island kingdom Great Britain. Unfortunately, their mentor Aristotle said the cook is not the best judge of a meal. As far as any greatness goes, July 1914 is when the British could have stepped up to the plate and started acting like it. It is not as if it takes an Ian Fleming to guess what Asquith, Grey and the House of Lords were doing absent their posts at Whitehall and Parliment during the singular most important political month in recorded history.
It is far from certain a World War ever could have ever started if upon receipt of the June 28th news Grey had got the hell to Paris, Asquith had instantly quit drinking gallons of alcohol, quit writing piles of love letters during cabinet meetings, quit leaving his post at Whitehall every weekend to chase Ms. Stanley around his country home, and above all, quit delegating his personal responsibility for the safety of all England and his personal responsibility for the lives of all Britishers and got the hell to work immediately.In 1918, after 4 years of fearsome slaughter on all sides, E. Grey paused his fishing, billiards and chasing women long enough to admit:"...if as a result of this war men of all nations will desire in future to stamp out the first sign of war as they would a forest fire or the plague, then the world may have a peace and security that it has never yet known."(132)Mr. Grey had it exactly backwards. That should have been the 1st lesson Grey was extensively schooled in BEFORE officially taking up his post at the Foreign Office in 1905. Not after. The way he is writing, it's as if Grey was pleading a defense that he wasn't taught that as Foreign Secretary. Mr. Grey states he had no special training for his position as Foreign Secretary. It is the position of this website that it apparently took an actual World War and the killing of millions and millions for it to dawn on the British Foreign Secretary what his primary responsibility at Whitehall even was.
If Britain was then the strongest, most stable civil gov't, that WWI could have happened is evidence that Foreign Secretary Grey was encouraged at the get-go to focus almost completely on foreign commercial opportunities at the expense of European stability. It took some years to build up enough misunderstandings and intense political pressure, but by 1914 this seemingly clever commercial maneuver would backfire right across the channel, heralding the beginning of the abrupt end of the Great British Empire.
Whitehall really should have known that they could not just sit back while Europe continued to flare up. By the war's end the number of the dead across Europe = at least 8 million, 800,000 of them British men, women and children. 8 million corpses placed end to end would stretch from Dover to Calais and back again some 200 times. That's not including World War I's 6 million dead civilians and about 9,000,000 wounded.
As for what the USA was doing, as mentioned, on June 27, 1914, Colonel Edward House, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson's emissary, met with Foreign Secretary Edward Grey in London:
"The meeting, part of a diplomatic tour of Europe that House made during the early summer of 1914, took place several weeks after House’s arrival in London, the previous June 9, after visiting Berlin, Germany, and Paris, France.
"The purpose of House’s trip was to persuade Germany and Britain to join with the United States in a diplomatic alliance in order to preserve peace, not only in Europe but in the world. House had long believed that, due to the mass amount of military and naval might the great powers of Europe had accumulated, they, along with America, could work together to prevent major wars."(133)
House had even gone to Berlin to talk with the Kaiser. Apparently House could not persuade Berlin and London to agree to sit down for talks. The very next day the Archduke and his consort were killed in Sarajevo. It would be of interest to learn what exactly else the diplomat E.M. House could have done to persuade Berlin, Paris and London of the risk they were taking with their tremendous stockpiling of armaments.
One possibility is if right after the June 28th regicide, Colonel House - who WAS highly-motivated - had taken the Wagon-Lits overnight sleeper train departing Charing Cross to Vienna and sought an audience with Austrian Foreign Minister Berchtold and hopefully Austrian Army Chief of Staff von Hotzendorf. After getting an earful, and then sensing the situation on the ground, Colonel House could travel back to London and convey some of the intense outrage in Vienna over the regicide.
Colonel House might have been able to ask British Foreign Secretary Grey to consider returning to Vienna with him to offer to set up a meeting with representatives of the Great Powers so as to make sure to keep the conflict localized. House could point out, although Grey knew it far better than House did, that Britain had an entente with Russia, and that Russia was Serbia's protector.
House might say the Americans were concerned that Europe's entangled alliance/entente systems might have the consequence that if Austria moved against Serbia, Russia might intervene, and depending upon Germany's position, that might ultimately begin to drag France and eventually even Britain in.
This had best be done before Kaiser Wilhelm departed July 6 for a vacation on his yacht off Norway and before French President Poincare departed July 16 on his yacht tour to Russia. It turned out that leaving Berlin would create terrible communication problems and misunderstandings between Wilhelm II and his generals. And the Germans reportedly blocked many crucial telegrams French President Poincare was sending/receiving on his yacht after July 16th.
Foreign Secretary Edward Grey himself admitted in 1916 that a conference could have settled the entire affair in a week. It appears the only one on the Continent with enough spine to push Grey into setting up a meeting right away in either Vienna or Paris was the highly-motivated American Colonel E. House.
The war clouds over Europe loomed so large and so dark even the Americans - from all the way across the Atlantic Ocean - were alarmed. So if the Americans, from such a vast distance away, were alarmed, considering the destructiveness of WWI, it should be assumed that every capitol in Europe/Britain had been under-estimating by orders of magnitude the de facto risk of a General War.
And that was before the June 28th outrage.
Had she lived longer, just the sheer presence of Sobriety Incarnate, HM Queen Victoria, might easily have been enough to discourage any German attempt to prod Austria-Hungary, or, for that matter, quell any of Whitehall's dazed anti-German sentiment, specifically because the German military was the only land power strong enough to stand between Britain and the Russian Steamroller's military excursions into Europe. HM Queen Victoria:
"The Queen has long seen with deep regret the persevering efforts made by the Times, which leads the rest of our Press, in attacking, vilifying, and abusing everything German, and particularly everything Prussian.
" ...it has assumed that tone of virulence, which could not fail to produce the deepest indignation amongst the people of Germany, and by degrees estrange the feelings of the people of this country from Germany.
"Lord Palmerston, probably not reading any German newspaper, nor having any personal intercourse with that country, can hardly be aware to what extent the mischief has already gone, though he will agree with the Queen that national hatred between these two peoples is a real political calamity for both."(134)
A far-sighted Queen:
"[In 2013]...the UK recently overtook France and the US to become Germany's single largest trading partner. David Marsh points out, in a note published today, that Germany's combined trade with the UK in the first nine months of 2012 came to 153bn euros (£128bn; $204bn).
"That's more than France or the US. Figures on the UK side suggest that the reverse is also true - that the UK's total trade with Germany is now slightly higher than with any other country, including the US."(135)
Again, HM Queen Victoria:
"...national hatred between these two peoples is a real political calamity for both."
However, maybe that's why she was the Queen and those clever playboys in Whitehall during July 1914 weren't. Maybe that's why HM Queen Victoria ruled for 63 years - and they didn't. By 1914 Whitehall had completely forgotten several of the monarchy's strongest warnings. In that sense perhaps the outbreak of World War I was less of a surprise than is commonly advertised.
Many of those in Whitehall who knew better but didn't want to be caught out at having done nothing throughout July 1914 played possum. Unable to see the forest for the leaf, London's struggle to prevent a German challenge for industry and commerce was soon to cost Britain it's empire, with gastly consequences for European and world stability.
HM Queen Victoria's son, the unschooled and hedonistic but intuitively talented King Edward VII, had insisted on a cosmopolitan presence in Europe, which turned out to be just what Britain needed.
Admittedly, the gluttonous side of him was a patently destructive role-model for the British upper-classes, but the King's peripatetic excursions in Europe and elsewhere demonstrated conclusively that diplomatically he was a far better King than his more highly-educated critics could admit. As the Prince of Wales, he was even the first member of the British royal family to visit America.
It is worth noting that after the self-indulgent Hanoverians that HM Queen Victoria was incredibly motivated to project the complete opposite image to all British people and indeed to all Europeans. Reportedly a very rebellious child, possibly Bertie's parents and tutors could not convey to him the danger of projecting a Hanoverian image for the Crown. HM Queen Victoria was distraught over the possibility of Bertie becoming King.
One of a handful of England's greatest monarchs, she had decades to wonder to herself whether she and her husband had possibly pushed the boy too hard in his studies. As great as monarchy can be, it's achilles-heel has always been succession.
And make no mistake, she knew it. It was almost as if at some unconscious level HM Queen Victoria's decades-long mourning period reflected her immense concern for what happens to the irreplaceable British Imperial Empire after Bertie takes over as much as it was for her husband Prince Albert.
It was almost as if in her mourning she was simply trying to tell Great Britain how deeply she felt she had let the country down. If she wasn't a great monarch, then England never had one.
After King Edward VII passed away in 1910, what floated to the surface in Britain was the causeless mirth of the easily distractable Marlborough Set, delighting in testosterone-driven/alcohol-fueled Edwardian House parties, the Henley Regatta, Royal Ascot, Newmarket, Cowes Week, the FA Cup, Wimbledon, Badminton Horse Trials, Goodwood, Hyde Park and Rotten Row, all at the apogee of the greatest crisis imaginable for Britain, and for Europe.
A continuous display/distraction of fashion and sporting events became more important than the survival of the Empire itself:
"...she [HM Queen Victoria] despatched a letter to Mr. Delane, the editor of The Times, asking him if he would 'frequently WRITE articles pointing out the IMMENSE danger and evil of the wretched frivolity and levity of the views and lives of the Higher Classes.'"[emphasis in original](136)
Whitehall's catastrophic mistake was in making treaties and alliances and ententes with Eurasian countries and then sitting back behind the channel and assuming the political situation in Europe would always remain stable enough that prompt arbitration of disputes between the Great Powers would never be necessary.
Subtract also the intense formidable sobriety of one of England's greatest and most cosmopolitan Queens, visiting France and Germany many, many times, conversing in the French and German languages, becoming known as the grandmother of Europe. The position of this website is that HM Queen Victoria recognized the astronomical value of the British Empire as a force for world stability as well if not better than anybody else.
From that subtract also the physical courage and diplomatic flair of a fabulously iconoclastic English/French/German-speaking British King who enthusiastically crossed the channel, in his life visiting Canada, Niagra Falls, the United States, stayed 5 nights at the White House(137), visited New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Independence Hall, Cairo, Jerusalem, Patmos, Ephesus, Smyrna, Constantinople, Athens, Malta, and then as King traveled repeatedly to Paris & Berlin to work at balancing it all, and what have you got left?
"The answer of Apollonius to Vespasian, is full of excellent instruction. Vespasian asked him, What was Nero's overthrow? He answered, Nero could touch and tune the harp well; but in government, sometimes he used to wind the pins too high, sometimes to let them down too low. And certain it is, that nothing destroyeth authority so much, as the unequal and untimely interchange of power pressed too far, and relaxed too much." [italics added]
Of Empire, Francis Bacon
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