Exactly one hundred years ago today, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were assassinated in a political move aimed at breaking off part of the Austria-Hungarian empire to combine with Yugoslavia. In response, the Austria-Hungarian empire issued an ultimatum which, going unmet, resulted in the start of The Great War, or as we know it today, World War I.
There are of course many tragedies I could speak of in this post, or statistics, or political alliances whose effects we can still see to this day. But whenever I think of World War I, I can't help but think of the Queen Victoria, one of my favorite historical figures, and what she might have thought about the war had she lived to see it.
Monarch to the United Kingdom and Empress of India, Queen Victoria married her cousin, Prince Albert, in 1840 and together they had nine children. As they grew older, her children went on to marry into nearly every prominent royal family across the face of Europe, essentially linking them together and earning Victoria the nickname "Grandmother of Europe".
At the start of 1914, her various grandchildren included King George V of England, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, consort to Czar Nicholas II of Russia. Thus, these three first cousins led the nations at the heart of the war.
How strange would it be to declare war on a closely related relative like that? I think of my own cousins, the children I grew up with, shared holidays with. Of course, I'm an inconsequential nobody who leads nothing, let alone an entire nation. But I think it'll always seem strange to me that family members declared war against one another. And I'll probably always wonder what Queen Victoria, famed for her "Close your eyes and think of England" comment, would have had to say about it.
But for today, one hundred years to the day since the start of the first war set on the global scale, remember Queen Victoria, her many descendants, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, and above all, the many who died from July 28, 1914 to the end of the war in 1918.