How did contemporaries experience and explain imperial decline in continental Europe? Perhaps the most famous image of imperial decline in the twentieth century is the photograph of Franz Ferdinand shot on the last day of his life in Sarajevo. The Habsburg family did not just represent its empire but embodied it. This explains the particular shock caused by the death of Franz Ferdinand not only to Europeans but to a global readership of world news. A photograph shot just minutes before the assassination – such an utterance poignantly expresses the tint of celebrity surrounding this particular death.
The first chapter places the effect of his death in the context of a longer affective genealogy of dynastic decline. In the last decades of Habsburg rule, members of the Habsburg family, like those of other dynasties such as the Romanoffs, were plagued by fears of assassination. We can grasp imperial decline both from a first-person perspective of its rulers, and indirectly, by observing the changing function of dynastic families in the period of declining empires. From the intellectual formation of the last ruling Habsburgs in the climate of cultural globalization, we get to the odd wartime ethnography of aristocratic officers serving Germany and Austria in the First World War. In the same generation, they went from a sentimental education in the grand tours of the Belle Epoque to a very different kind of mobility. Their deployment as officers in the First World War gave them techniques and technologies of detachment from the theatre of war. Looking at imperial transformation through the eyes of the dynastic and military elites exposes the connections between imperial societies both during and after imperial decline. Whether empires ended gradually or abruptly, by way of partial devolution and decolonization, like Britain, or revolution, like Russia, they did not collapse independently from each other. The old imperial elites were mutually connected and remained so after the demise of their former rulers.
On a December day in 1892, in Trieste, a young Habsburg Archduke boarded the steamer Empress Elizabeth to embark on a Grand Tour around the world. The Archduke originally planned to travel incognito, but throughout his journey, he was received and entertained by members of the highest nobility.1 He was accompanied by three servants, two cooks, a gamekeeper, the adjunct custodian of the Austro-Hungarian imperial Hofmuseum for Natural History, and a taxidermist, who was also a photographer. The group included two consuls of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and four military officers of the imperial Ulan Guards. One of the officers was the descendant of an old dynasty of Crusaders, and others belonged to the innermost circle of the Habsburg emperor.2 It was impossible for the Archduke to hide his high standing with such an entourage.
Yet in some sense, in 1892, he was indeed unknown to the world. Few outside of Austria-Hungary, Germany, and the higher European aristocracy would have actually recognized him by first name. His trip around the world, for all its excesses in luxury, was typical of someone of his standing, as were many of his other activities. Before assuming the title of Archduke, the prince had been mostly interested in hunting exotic animals. He had purchased a hunting estate from a financially troubled Bohemian nobleman, Prince Lobkowicz. Here, at Konopischt, he displayed the spoils of his exploits shooting Bohemian deer to a select number of guests.3
His Grand Tour was organized using the same boat that had already taken one of his predecessors, Maximilian, on trips to Brazil.4 By the middle of the nineteenth century, the educational tour around the globe had become one of the core experiences that prepared aspiring rulers for political power on an increasingly global scale. Between 1880 and 1912, several incumbents to the throne of the Romanoff, Wittelsbach, Hohenzollern, Saxe-Coburg Gotha, and Habsburg families all went on trips around the world. Even the route that Franz Ferdinand’s group had taken was mainstream: they passed from the Mediterranean to Port Said in Egypt to India, from there to Singapore and Australia, then to Japan, North America, and finally, having crossed the United States, back to Vienna.
Global personal renown only reached the Archduke on the day of his death by assassination on 28 June 1914. As Emil Ludwig, one of his generation’s most celebrated political biographers, put it, the assassin, ‘under the doubly symbolic name of Gabriel Princip’ had let loose a ‘world-cataclysm’ for all of Europe’s remaining emperors.5 The assassination signalled a famous chain of events that eventually put an end to four European empires. The shots resonated in European cultural memory decades after they were no longer heard in the streets of Sarajevo. The symbolic construction of this event was a major collective accomplishment of Europe’s journalists and historians. Photographs of Franz Ferdinand, originally intended for celebratory purposes, marking the Archduke’s state visit to one of his future domains, obtained documentary value because they were billed as having been taken ‘just minutes before he was assassinated’.
There is hardly a political leader in European history whose assassination was as constitutive of his fame, in proportion to his lifetime identity and achievements, as Franz Ferdinand. This culturally constructed echo reached as far back in time as the French Revolution, when Empress Marie Antoinette had been executed, and as far away geographically as the remote Mexican city of Querétaro, the place where another Habsburg Archduke, Mexican emperor Maximilian, had been executed in 1867.6 Franz Ferdinand’s significance as a symbol of the start of the First World War is so pervasive that it is still heard in the twenty-first century. A hundred years on, no historical analysis of the Great War can really do without some account of Franz Ferdinand’s assassination.
The contrast between the rather local significance of Franz Ferdinand before his death, and the global fame of his decline, raises the question as to the reasons for this celebrity. On the surface, aside from the legendary Franz Josef I, who died in 1916, none of the Habsburgs who lived in the twentieth century had any significant political role. Even Franz Josef himself ended up witnessing the gradual devolution of his powers: first, in 1867, to Hungary, then, in the defeat at Solferino, to the rising Italian nation, and finally, around the time of his death, to the other components of his empire. The last Habsburg emperor, Karl, tried to preserve his own power by promoting the creation of puppet kingdoms in Poland and Ukraine, with Karl Stefan and Wilhelm von Habsburg as regents, but this plan never succeeded. Karl Stefan died in his Galician castle, while Wilhelm von Habsburg was killed in a Soviet military camp in 1948.7 Increasingly, the Habsburgs had come to excel at another sort of renown: the celebrity of imperial decline. As I want to suggest, the deeper reasons for this celebrity lay not in their real achievements, not in the actual promises that their persons held for their empires, but in the symbolic significance that their figures had both internally and abroad. As Europe’s oldest elites, they were also figures of public identification in the age before democratic representation. Their existence gave persons of different social, ethnic, and religious status to sense some commonality. This sense of a common background became even more important when the empires that these Habsburgs had ruled declined.
The property of being célèbre, a secularized form of sanctity, precedes the emergence of the ‘celebrity’ as a noun describing a type of person. This status is achieved when the name of the person itself gives the public the illusion of knowing the person behind the name, even if they know very little about the person, and independently of the person’s actual deeds and actions.8 Modern theorists of celebrity tend to explain this phenomenon as the result of the separation of particular individuals from the rest of society through a mass-mediated worship of some of their attributes.9 According to this view, celebrities are a quintessentially modern phenomenon, born with the age of the modern revolutions; they come about as a result of the confluence between democratization, rationalization, and commodification.10
However, the quality of being known in virtue of being known applies particularly directly to Europe’s princely dynasties and other noble families.11 We have an illusion of being familiar with people bearing noble names, as Georg Simmel pointed out, because we recognize the names from history, not because we recognize them as persons. They have practised a careful art of self-fashioning, and other factions in their environment were historically interested in contributing to the fashioning of aristocratic identity in their own interests as well.12 Their devises and coats of arms are not unlike modern brands. Moreover, the greatest majority of family members with illustrious names spent their life doing very little in the spheres of politics, science, or art, being engaged in purely representational activities, or just living their lives. Most societies know them primarily through the image they associate with their name, supplemented with personal attributes.
Celebrity is the last remnant of charismatic forms of grace; the ‘King’s touch’ is still visible to us through the gaze of the celebrity. The origin of the term ‘celebrity’ is not accidentally connected to the sphere of the sacred, such as the celebration of mass. Weber had taken the theological concept of charisma to describe a particularly premodern and ‘pre-rational’ form of granting someone authority. Modernity is the period in which celebrity is not only a mass spectacle but the spectacle also has multiple, and seemingly impersonal, organizers. The increased intensity of economic and cultural exchange means that the persons holding celebrity status have less control over their image than before. The difference between premodern and modern forms of celebrity, or rather between celebrity in early capitalist and advanced capitalist society, is not in the quality of the celebrity’s authority over a public, which remains magical; rather, the change affects the forms in which the celebrity’s image is socially mediated.
The key question for the historian is at which moment the mechanism of celebrity construction kicks in. In the case of Franz Ferdinand and the Habsburgs generally, these moments are the points in time at which their particular achievements and position come to be perceived as being representative of something far larger than they are. For Franz Ferdinand, this ‘larger than his life’ effect had to do with his activities as a patron of culture.
Upon his return, Franz Ferdinand began to take his duties as a curator of imperial culture as seriously as his uncle. Travelling to remote parts of the Habsburg Empire, he promoted the development of regional folk arts; he also continued collecting and expanding the family’s ethnographic collection for the now-established museum. Seen through the eyes of the Habsburg Archdukes, Europeanness can be grasped through two concepts of detachment: the social detachment of the nobility, particularly of the ruling houses, from their ‘ethnically other’ subjects; and the ethnic distinction between Europeans (as white Christians) and non-Europeans. Members of dynastic families played the role of identity builders, not only as politicians, but also in the sphere of symbolic power, as collectors, as patrons of allegorical self-representation, and as the first dilettante ethnographers.
Celebrities did not emerge at the same time as the circulation of print and the mass market; rather, what changed in the modern period was that their image became much more widely commodified, and that as commodities, they were in competition with others. As commodities, they could not ‘go to market and make exchanges of their own account’, as Marx had put it in Capital, the first volume of which was published in 1867.13
In order to understand the symbolic significance of dynastic death – a peculiar kind of celebrity – in modern Europe, we need to place it in comparative perspective. Between 1881 and 1914, there were more assassination attempts against members of European ruling families than had ever before occurred in a comparable time span of recorded European history. Even non-ruling or minor members of a ruling family, as well as vice-regents coming from non-dynastic aristocratic families, became victims of political assaults. This is surprising not least because dynastic legitimacy was an old and carefully constructed system of beliefs; the ruling families, which had controlled much of the cultural production in their realms, sustained it by encouraging displays of their special genealogy, which secured a selective memory of their ancestors. Many groups and factions of European society maintained or at least passively accepted the image of ruling dynasties as symbolic sources of their common identity.14 Thus even though rituals like the King’s touch, which had previously affirmed the widespread belief in royalty’s special powers of healing, had disappeared by the modern period, in many other respects, dynastic charisma remained intact.15 The fact that more Europeans were ready to assassinate members of their royal families was not necessarily a sign of their decline in authority; on the contrary, it could equally be interpreted as an act of affirmation that these old rulers continued to embody a political order, albeit one whose decline many considered overdue.
Publicly mediated news of assassinated royals and their voluntary or involuntary abdication allowed contemporaries to conceptualize imperial decline through the notion of death, which was both metaphorical and literal. But this picture of imperial decline, captured in the figure of the deposed or assassinated monarch, would remain incomplete if we did not consider other ways in which imperial decline was represented allegorically.
The celebrated late-Victorian anthropologist James Frazer had remarked that assassinating a monarch used to be one of the fundamental taboos of primitive societies, more significant than the taboo of murder.16 Yet the increased frequency of royal assassinations, together with the abolition of the nobility, might suggest that in modern times the taboo had been broken too often and in too many places at once to still merit the name. But even if this is the case, the widespread tendencies to break with the old imperial order must still be explained in terms of their impact and their social function. The legal and cultural forms taken by these abolitions contributed significantly to the shaping of post-imperial societies in Europe, from national democracies to authoritarian dictatorships.
As violence against the ruling dynasties took on cultural as well as political forms, these families themselves responded to the acts of terror by enacting policies of commemoration. Monuments were built in a historicist style, recalling a bygone era of greatness, whether neo-Gothic neo-classical, or neo-Mughal. Throughout Europe, an unprecedented number of monuments to living and recently deceased members of ruling families were erected in the decades between the Franco-Prussian War and the First World War. This also coincided with historicist painting coming into fashion, presenting newly made nations with the illustrated history of their rulers.
When they prepared to succeed in power, the representatives of the old empires in Europe were aware of the precariousness of imperial rule. Monuments were erected both in the centres and at the fringes of the empires. The Habsburgs built the neo-Gothic Votivkirche at the heart of their empire in Vienna; completed in 1879, it commemorated both Franz Josef’s survival of a failed knife attack by a Hungarian nationalist in 1853 and the death by firing squad of Emperor Maximilian of Mexico. Similarly, in 1907, the Romanoffs commemorated the death of Alexander II both at the centre and the periphery; the Cathedral of Spas na krovi (literally: ‘Savior on the Blood’), built on the spot in St. Petersburg where Emperor Alexander II had been assassinated in 1881, looks like a smaller copy of the St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow. Like the Habsburgs, the Romanoffs also made sure to build monuments to the assassinated emperor at the more contested fringes of their empire, such as the city of Kazan itself, where a monument was erected in 1895. Beyond Europe, Lord Curzon’s calls to build monuments in India to the deceased Queen Victoria resulted in construction not only in the former colonial centre of Calcutta but also at the periphery, in Lucknow, where the famous Sepoy rebellion had strongly shaken her rule in 1857.17 At the same time, Lucknow became a tourist sight attracting global interest in imperial decline.
The symbolic commemoration of violence gave dynastic rulers a special kind of charisma. Control over the representation of this threat did not remain under the control of the ruling families for long, however. Throughout the territories of former imperial control, the very places where monuments had been erected became loci of resistance. The most famous images of toppling hegemony came from revolutionary Russia.
Another example of self-promotion projects with unintended consequences was the historical archive initiated by the Habsburgs. In 1868, the Habsburg family agreed to open its archives to the public, starting a long process of collecting documents and building a representative edifice for their presentation. The Hohenzollerns, too, opened a museum for the public at this time. But just as in the case of the Hohenzollern museum, the completion of the Habsburgs’ Court and state archive in 1918 would eventually coincide with the demise of the dynasty and its empire.18 Throughout Europe, aristocratic archives, which the dynasties and minor nobility presented as documents of shared imperial history, had become instruments of their disintegration.
The increased circulation of images of destruction in the international press, books, and films meant that the power of these images transcended the borders of the former empires that the dynasties had represented. Destruction in one location was visible in several locations at once. Images of the decline of dynasties acquired a double meaning as symbols of decline. The dynastic families who had been the makers of identity became objects of an almost ethnographic interest in the past, a European self-ethnography.
The Archdukes as collectors: civilizing Europe with barbarian art
The noble courts and the imperial families that controlled them, in a variety of ways, gave Europeans their first idea of themselves.19 For ruling families like the Habsburgs and their chief political rivals, the Protestant Hohenzollerns, the history and culture of their families were inseparable from those of their empires.20 At a time when the Habsburg Empire was threatened by national secessionist movements, the imperial family strove to embody, if not to represent, all its subjects in the figure of the emperor.21 For instance, followers of Franz Ferdinand celebrated the fact that his 2,047 ancestors belonged to all the nations of the empire. His personal art collection, they indicated, comprised portraits of famous ancestors from across Europe, from Poland in the east to Spain in the west.22
European dynasties became figures of ‘integration’ for their subjects not only by discussing European history but also by familiarizing Europeans with non-European cultures. In doing so, they laid the foundations for comparative thinking in which class affinities with non-Europeans trumped racial separation between Europeans and non-Europeans.23 The old dynasties were not only strange, special lineages governing a bunch of alien subjects; they had also introduced them to other types of strangeness, the ‘inferior’ strangeness of non-Christian folk culture. The work of collecting cultural artefacts, promoting imperial culture at home and abroad, and maintaining their family’s prestige was traditionally undertaken by non-ruling family members who were next in line to the throne, and the fact that both Maximilian and Franz Ferdinand were Archdukes made heritage maintenance a central activity for them.
The title of Archduke is itself, in a sense, an early testament to European ‘identity politics’. It reflects the shrewd way in which this family, whose origins can be traced to a small castle in Switzerland first recorded in the twelfth century, secured its power over the centuries, not only by military conquests and marital alliances but also by careful cultivation of the family’s public image. The title derives from a fourteenth-century incident when a Habsburg, Rudolf IV, wanted to obtain the privilege of electing the emperor. To this end, he commissioned a forged document, the Privilegium Maius, which claimed that Austria, now the family’s chief seat, was an ‘Archduchy’.24 The Holy Roman Empire technically recognized only Duchies and Grand Duchies, but the claim went through. This retroactive change of status meant that the Habsburg dukes had the same status as the prince-electors of the Holy Roman Empire, increasing their chances of becoming rulers of the empire for generations to come. Francesco Petrarca proved the document to be a forgery not long after its production, but his discovery of the forgery never undermined the now widely asserted power of the ruling family.25 Even after the forgery was rediscovered again in a nineteenth-century journal, the title had become so much a part of the identity of its imperial family that the publication made no difference. The title persisted for more than a hundred years beyond the lifetime of the Holy Empire itself and, interestingly, even Otto von Habsburg bore the title of Archduke when he died in 2011.
While the symbolic power of the title had waned since the fourteenth century, its economic significance only waxed in importance in the eighteenth. Archdukes, that is, the male members of the immediate imperial family, could now enjoy the privileges of the familial fund (Allerhöchster Familienversorgungsfond), which Maria Theresia had instituted to provide for the imperial family. Although neither Ferdinand Maximilian, as the future emperor Maximilian had been known, nor Franz Ferdinand was born in the direct line of succession to the throne, news of their new position reached them at the age of 16 and 26, respectively. Ferdinand Maximilian’s uncle, who had a neurological disorder, was urged to resign in 1848; when his father also resigned, this left his brother Franz Josef in charge.
After their uncle stepped down in the wake of the revolutions of 1848, Ferdinand Maximilian’s elder brother Franz Josef served as the head of the House of Habsburg, Emperor of Austria, King of a large part of central Europe and parts of the Middle East, including Jerusalem, and at this point was still President of the German Confederation. By contrast, Ferdinand Maximilian as a young man believed that he could be ‘himself’ because he was free from the burden of rule. He was one of the first promoters of early photography and developed a habit of writing his travel journal in verse. Despite his military education, Maximilian preferred the arts and sciences to his brother’s politics. The main focus of Maximilian’s interest was on collecting artefacts and natural objects from around the world, for which he equipped his personal frigate, the SMS Novara. Supplied with the intellectual support of Alexander von Humboldt, whose own explorations dated back to the beginning of the nineteenth century, the frigate travelled to Asia, South America, and Australia, collecting specimens of the culture, flora, and fauna of each.26 Among its anthropological findings was a collection of Aztec and Mexican folk art known as Mexikanische Kostbarkeiten.27
‘I am myself’ [Ich bin ich] – that was his motto of choice for writing about the jungle during a trip to Brazil as a young man in 1859–60.28 ‘Such expeditions are geared towards the individual, and for their duration, caste and estate mean nothing’. In the jungle of Bahia, he believed, the mutual dependence needed to survive against the forces of nature appeared to trump social status. In one poem about the jungle of Bahia, written in January 1860, Maximilian conjured up a mysterious sound coming from the forest, a ‘ghostly army that begs for revenge against the white people – its children’s butchers’. Another poem called The Dethroned Prince described a strange scene: in an Indian settlement in the jungle, an old man sits alone on a stone. He is the ‘Prince of the Camacan’, who was once the lord of his people and the forests. Now, defeated by a rival tribe, the old man ‘cries about his own decline [Untergang]’; this man who had ruled all his life is now seen with his ‘thin legs shaking tiredly’. In the city of Petropolis, Maximilian turns to a critique of urban life typical for Europeans of his generation, describing the appearance of a railway in the jungle. Its shrill sounds, its monstrosity, is set against the ‘holy jungle’ which has been violated like a virgin (geschändet); ‘the Indian flees westwards in astonishment/ away from his father’s place of a thousand years,/ For where the white man moves, his forest dries up,/ and his woman and child will be engulfed by a chain of sin’.29
Echoing the European Romantics, these fantasies of savage cultures appeared as Europe’s critical bad conscience. As Heinrich Heine put it in his 1851 poem ‘Vitzliputzli’, the Aztec god of war would eventually take revenge for the murder of Montezuma, the last Aztec, ruler who had been one of his priests. As Heine put it: ‘This uncivilised,/ Pagan, blinded by superstition/ still believed in loyalty and honour/ and in the sanctity of hospitality’. Montezuma’s gift of a crown of feathers to his future Spanish murderers at the Habsburg court left a material memory for its future heirs. It was integrated into their collection of global artefacts at Castle Ambras and, after the collapse of Habsburg rule, remained the property of the Museum für Völkerkunde. Heine thought that Vitzliputzli, the blood-thirsty God of war, evoked both fear and laughter. His appearance was so ‘kooky/ it’s so squiggly and so childish/ That despite an inner terror/ He still tingles us to laughter’.30 The last word in Heine’s poem belonged not to a European, but to Vitzliputzli himself who wants to ‘flee to the home country of my enemies’ to ‘start a new career’ as the Devil, Beelzebub, and the snake Lilith, to ‘avenge my beloved Mexico’.
Between the French Revolution and the end of the Napoleonic era, authors like Johann Gottfried Herder, August von Kotzebue, and Heinrich von Kleist produced works in which they expressed sympathy for the oppressed native peoples and the slaves of the new world. As Susanne Zantop and others have argued, the idealization of the native ‘others’ was formative for these German authors’ own conceptualization of national identity as a form of resistance against empire.31 The fear and sympathy with the ‘black rebellions’ of the new world had been inspired by real events, the 1791 slave uprising of Saint-Domingue. French troops then worked with international, including German, mercenaries to crush the rebellion. National historians like Jules Michelet subsequently found it difficult to reconcile the French army defending the French Revolution at home against the international royalist counter-insurgency but imprisoning the black leader of the slave rebellion of Saint-Domingue, Toussaint L’Ouverture, and leaving him to die in a French prison.32
Celebrity of decline before Franz Ferdinand: the case of Maximilian
The case of Maximilian of Habsburg, or Ferdinand Max, as he was known in his earlier life, is the most prominent example of a royal celebrity of decline, whose commodification went beyond the control of the royal family. Before the First World War, narratives of Maximilian’s life had been based mostly on accounts of the last three years of his life, which are but a short episode in the international history of Europe and the United States. Interpreters defined his life variously as a symbol of the struggle between republicanism and imperialism, Europe and the new world, or Romanticism and realpolitik. A brief account of these three years shall suffice here. In the 1860s, French emperor Napoleon III, nephew of his greater namesake, decided to use a weakened United States in order to bring Mexico under French control. This he deemed necessary for reasons of state, as emergent republican forces in Mexico had declared themselves bankrupt, which affected French creditors. Moreover, it was a fortunate moment for an intervention because these republicans, who generally enjoyed support from the United States against the more conservative clerical faction of the country, were left briefly to their own devices since the United States were themselves involved in a civil war.
Napoleon’s idea was to invade on the pretences of reclaiming an old right. One of the former rulers of Mexico was the Habsburg family, who had named a province their own after their European possession in Spain Nueva Galicia. The question was this: which member of the Habsburg family is to be cast in the role of prospective emperor. Napoleon’s choice fell on Archduke Maximilian, the brother of his only recently defeated enemy, Emperor Franz Josef. As contemporary critics such as the journalist Karl Marx anticipated in an article for the New York Daily Tribune published in 1861, it was ‘one of the most monstrous enterprises ever chronicled in the annals of international history’.33
Only a few decades prior to that, a similar venture by the Spanish Itúrbide family had failed. The childless Maximilian and his Belgian wife Charlotte forcefully adopted their son in order to have a future heir. But all was in vain: six years and one more failed empire later, Marx could have well concluded that the story was one of those to be written into those annals in ‘letters of blood and fire’. This plan, which came to be known as the Mexican Intervention or the story of the ‘cactus throne’, united Britain and France in their desire to establish control over Mexican territory in competition with the United States, at a time when Mexico’s emergent governing elite was split between a liberal and a clerical faction. The blood to be shed was that of many people: Mexican insurgents, French officers, Mexican supporters of the empire, and others. But it was the ‘blue’ blood of the Habsburg protagonist, and the actions of a firing squad loyal to Oaxacan republican Benito Juárez, which in 1867 became the symbol of Europe’s waning role as an imperial force in the Americas. Napoleon’s plan was to ship Maximilian to Mexico and install him there as a new Emperor, which he did. In 1864, Maximilian arrived on his own frigate Novara, a boat he had originally destined for scientific explorations around the world.
From the beginning, this was more than just a French intervention, even though it served the interests of primarily French financiers. But the agents involved were international.34 Not only were many of Maximilian’s immediate supporters subjects of different states, including the Habsburg monarchy, Prussia, Saxony, France, and, not least, Mexico, whose status was to be determined; but several of his officers, including Maximilian’s aide-de-camp, Prussian Prince Felix zu Salm-Salm, and another officer, Maximilian Baron von Alvensleben, who came from Saxon nobility, had both just served in the army of the American Unionists in the Civil War.35 Because the financial support for the intervention came primarily from France, this meant that the campaign faltered soon after French support had become increasingly costly, while resistance to European rule in Mexico gained in strength. On top of that, in 1865, the American Civil War had ended, thus increasing the capacity of Americans to support the Mexican republic. Maximilian’s officers had joined him for Romantic reasons: they wanted to support his enlightened monarchy in Mexico against what they thought would be a reactionary republic. But a few months later, the Europeans’ Mexican adventure was over; all European parties involved – the Habsburgs in Austria, the Bonapartes in France, and the Saxe-Coburg-Gothas with their parliamentary government in Britain, as well as financial investors in the campaign throughout Europe – had lost spectacularly. In 1867, the mercenary officers, such as Salm-Salm, who would serve (and die) on the Prussian side in the Franco-Prussian War three years later, returned to their home regiments in Europe; meanwhile, Maximilian and two Mexican officers loyal to him were publicly court-martialled.
Franz Josef tried to keep the scandal of Maximilian’s death under control. Charlotte, his widow, had, in the meantime, lost her mind and lived secluded in one of her father’s castles in Belgium. Maximilian’s former aide-de-camp, Prince Salm-Salm, who had been instructed to gain access to Maximilian’s documents at his residence in Miramar and other locations, complained in his memoirs that the family did not allow him to access the papers he needed to fulfil the promise he had made to Maximilian before he died. The royal court tried to acknowledge the tragedy in its own way. The Votivkirche in Vienna, whose original construction had been Maximilian’s personal project, was rededicated in his memory. Franz Josef also dutifully assembled the artefacts which Maximilian’s boat the frigate Novara had brought from Mexico in a public display in the Hofmuseum’s permanent ethnographic collection. He even prohibited the song ‘La Paloma’, which had become the unofficial anthem of the Mexican republic, to be played in the empire, a rule that still applies in the Austrian navy. The tune ‘La Paloma’ originally had nothing to do with the Habsburgs. Sébastien Yradier, a Basque composer, wrote it in Cuba. The singer who sang it first, Concepcion (Conchita) Mendez, became a royal artist at the theatre recently reinstated by Charlotte at Mexico City. However, as the republican forces gained strength, they appropriated ‘La Paloma’, supplied it with a new title and used it to deride Charlotte of Belgium as ‘Mama Carlota’ on her departure from Mexico. In 1867, as Charlotte was leaving Mexico to seek support for her husband from European monarchs, Conchita Mendez was asked by the crowds to perform the song in the theatre under the new, republican, title. The news that she refused to do so reached Emperor Franz Josef, who praised Conchita’s loyalty in a birthday note in 1901.36 The subsequent story of ‘La Paloma’, which became one of the world’s most popular tunes, only testifies the extent to which the House of Habsburg had lost control over its own media image.37
Above all, Franz Josef could not prevent the fame of Maximilian as a sympathizer with the revolutionary cause, and a puppet in the power politics of Napoleon III, from reaching a wider public. News of Maximilian’s execution reached Europe by telegram at the worst possible moment, when Napoleon III of France was about to open the Great Exhibition of 1867 in Paris. It could only be withheld from the public by one day. In the decade that followed, numerous memoirs, plays, and historical accounts were published and translated into a variety of languages, including French, Spanish, English, Hungarian, Czech and Slovak, Russian, Portuguese, and others.38 The public image of Maximilian acquired more and more dramatic texture after his death, following more publications of eyewitness reports, such as that of his Mexican secretary.39 What appealed to these audiences was primarily the drama of Maximilian’s death, the negative light it shed on the much disliked regime of Napoleon III, and the fact that he emerged as a puppet figure in a struggle between an old civilization and its new rivals. ‘What has become of the eager competition with which the most warlike Monarchy in the Old World and the most self-asserting Republic in the New seemed bent upon disputing the supremacy and high protectorate over so vast a part of the Western Continent?’ – asked the Times in January 1867.40
In the year after his death, Maximilian’s memoirs of his life and thoughts before 1864 were published at Duncker & Humblot, a publishing house with eminent predecessors to Maximilian, such as Schegel, E.T.A. Hoffmann, and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.41 Despite a very limited circulation size of 5,000 copies, it was soon translated into French and English in the same year. Maximilian’s notes revealed a republican spirit. In 1859, while Franz Josef was struggling against France in the battle of Solferino, Maximilian at the nearby castle Miramar celebrated Lucca, where ‘Libertas had flourished in times of a long and true peace, because it was satisfied with the small and never strove for the big.’42 Influenced by the German Romantics who had also inspired the revolutionaries of 1848, Maximilian had been in constant search of his own identity.
After the First World War, more works on Maximilian appeared when the collapse of the Habsburg Empire left scholars free to access hitherto private family papers at the Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv in the Hofburg.43 Using this resource, as well as the published memoirs of some of Maximilian’s entourage, in 1923, Viennese historian Count Corti published the first scholarly biography of Maximilian, insisting that of ‘all the tragedies in history there is scarce one which has so deeply excited the sympathy of the world as that of the ill-fated Emperor and Empress of Mexico’.44 As ‘New-World Republicanism’ had its ‘most satisfying triumph over the Old-World Courts’, Maximilian became a tragic figure whose last words kept being reiterated by biographers: ‘I forgive everyone, and I pray that everyone may forgive me. May my blood, now to be shed, be shed for the good of Mexico.’45 This was the line that had been printed on the cartes de visite of his execution by the studio of Adrien Cordiglia in 1867.
Corti’s and other biographies had given a shape to Maximilian’s figure, which made him ready for the republican causes of the twentieth century. The circumstances of Maximilian’s death gave Europeans one more, albeit negative, source of identity. As the British Empire faced what became the last decade of rule in India, historian Daniel Dawson described how, at the time of Maximilian, the ‘scorching sun of a Mexican summer shone on an Empire in dissolution’.46 Maximilian became Europe’s first inter-imperial and transatlantic celebrity of decline since Christopher Columbus’s accidental discovery of America. Both were Habsburg enterprises, but only Maximilian obtained the peculiar status of a celebrity in virtue of his failure.
Maximilian had become the stuff of a growing culture industry, which began with the photographic depiction of his execution. It had multiple centres of distribution: photographic studios in Mexico City and in Paris; newspaper bureaus; later, local tourism organizations based in locations associated with his life and death, including Castle Miramar near Trieste, and Querétaro, his place of death, where by the 1890s, a more formal monument to Maximilian was erected that was reproduced as one of the sights of Mexico by contemporary photographers and even marketed abroad in places such as the American magazine Harper’s. A Journal of Civilization.
In Europe, a painting by Édouard Manet showing the execution of Maximilian was first banned from public view under Napoleon III. The impoverished Manet had cut up the painting, to be sold in parts. But his friend Edgar Degas later purchased the fragments and reassembled them. The subsequent success of this nearly complete painting eventually popularized the story of Maximilian along with Manet’s own in the twentieth century.
Manet had never been to Mexico but used photographs, accounts circulating in the French press, as well as an image by Goya of the Spanish resistance against Napoleon, as a basis. He was not trying to get as close to reality as possible; but he wanted to capture the true spirit of the event. As contemporaries like Emile Zola duly noted, in one of the versions, even though it was publicly known that Maximilian’s executors were Mexican nationalists led by Benito Juárez, he depicted them wearing French uniforms with their characteristic kepis. Immediately interpreted as an open critique of Napoleon III, the painting and even its lithographic reproductions were banned in France.47 As a result, even after Napoleon’s death, the painting was shown only in Boston and not displayed in France until after Manet’s death.48
As acclaimed art historian Julius Meier-Graefe put it: ‘Art changes, just as houses and dresses, morals and ideals change, and one and the same artwork changes, as if it was still being worked upon, even after it had been hanging behind a glass frame.’49 In Paris in 1884, nobody wanted to buy Manet’s painting, The Execution of Maximilian, probably for political reasons, since all other paintings offered at a Vente found buyers. But by 1898, French collector of impressionist art Paul Durand-Ruel purchased it from Manet’s wife for 8,000 francs. It was then sold on to another French buyer for 12,000. By 1908, German buyer Bernheim found that it was worth 60,000 francs. By 1910, the Mannheim art gallery bought the painting for the equivalent of 90,000 francs.50
In 1918, the National Gallery acquired a fourth version of Manet’s Execution of Maximilian from the private collection of Degas, who had just died in Paris. The purchase was facilitated from a government grant by a special permission of John Maynard Keynes and Lord Curzon, who were being advised by Roger Fry. One of the economic consequences of the war was a rapid depreciation of art. Keynes and Curzon formed an ad hoc committee from the National Gallery and travelled to Paris, just as Germany was bombing the city, to acquire the painting at an auction. It was a bargain: 25,052 francs or 945 pounds sterling, which would be the equivalent of £50,000 in 2015.51
At the turn of the century, the Habsburgs turned from collectors to collectibles, from owners of curiosity into objects of curiosity. The Paris art salon had established a tradition for depicting decapitated and deposed monarchs, but prior to Manet, they focused mostly on France and Britain. It was particularly a contemporary of Eugène Delacroix, the great allegorist of liberty, who excelled at depicting the deaths of crowned subjects. Paul Delaroche was so drawn to depicting subjects such as the executions of Marie Antoinette and Charles I Stuart that Heinrich Heine was prompted to remark: ‘Mr Delaroche is the court painter of all decapitated majesties.’52 What gave the spectacle of their death a hue of universal tragic symbolism, even, and especially, in cases like Maximilian and Franz Ferdinand, who had barely held any political power in their lifetime? Some factors are specific to each case. Maximilian’s brief rise and decline was, as we have seen, entangled with several aspects of European and transatlantic politics, making the affair an international event. Franz Ferdinand’s imminent succession to the throne gave his activities more weight. Besides, both shared the familial charisma of the Habsburgs, which still carried some weight. But I believe that the most significant factor, and one which helps explain the symbolic importance of all three assassinated Habsburgs, but particularly Maximilian and Franz Ferdinand, was that they made their subjects’ own identity: their families’, their subjects’, and that of Europe at large. As scholars have argued, through institutions such as the collection of ethnographic objects, museums, and other forms of cultural heritage, the Habsburgs gave their subject shared and divided forms of identity. In their absence, the character of this identity was put into question.
Interpreters made much of the symbolism that it was the same boat, the frigate Novara, which on Maximilian’s orders had introduced the Viennese to Mexican culture that returned to Trieste with his dead body in 1867.53 As Rubén Gallo argued, the confluence of these symbols gave impressionable Habsburg subjects like Sigmund Freud nightmares of their very own death. Even before Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, Sigmund Freud observed that his patients had obsessive dreams that were based on their repressed fears of agents provocateurs.54 Throughout Europe, terrorist plots and individual attempts against ruling families and some non-dynastic rulers were indicating the fragility of the political order.55 Photographic documentation could not capture the moment of destruction but documented the absent body as graphically as possible, as, for example, in a police photograph of the assassinated Grand Duke Sergius in Moscow in 1905. In lectures held at the University of Vienna in 1917, he argued that mourning could be the effect of the ‘loss of a beloved person or an abstraction that came to take its place such as the fatherland, freedom, an ideal, etc.’56 The loss of a fatherland or an empire is insofar akin to the loss of a love, he suggested, as it is not caused by the mere absence of a physical body in the world, but in the disturbance of an imaginary, spiritual relationship between oneself and that other, abstract or real, person. Freud’s own dreams, as Rubén Gallo surmises, reflected the history of Maximilian’s own death, which Freud had also contemplated as a tourist at Maximilian’s Italian castle Miramar, looking at the allegory of Maximilian ruling the new world.
It was fantastical writings like Heine’s that inspired Maximilian to widen his Grand Tours beyond the confines of Europe. But, understandably, Maximilian’s attitude towards the nobleness of the natives and his own European heritage was more ambivalent than that of the Romantics. He empathized with an indigenous prince, and yet also admired the idea of empire. He brought Mexican antiquities to Europe, but when he took up residence in Chapultepec Castle, an eighteenth-century palace erected for the Spanish viceroys on the tip of a sacred Aztec site, he had it redesigned in the style of Neuschwanstein – the epitome of neo-Gothic Europeanism.57 Maximilian praised Lucca, but he also praised England for having created the Leviathan and the Crystal Palace. As between these two achievements of imperial power, he preferred the Crystal Palace to the Leviathan. When, in Granada, the cathedral’s Quasimodo handed him the regalia of his ancestors for a few moments, Maximilian wanted to purchase them. ‘Proudly and yet sadly I took in my hand the golden ring and the once powerful sword. Would it not be a brilliant dream to draw the latter in order to win the former?’58 In Europe especially, he felt a right to control territory that used to belong to his ancestors; across the Atlantic, he felt acutely as a representative of illegitimate white power with no ancient claims to the land. Back in Europe, Maximilian was critical upon seeing the sale of women in a market in Constantinople.59
Representatives of other dynasties, the Hohenzollerns, Wittelsbachs, Romanoffs, and Saxe-Coburg Gothas, also sent their incumbents to the throne on global journeys between the 1880s and the 1910s. The Bavarian prince Rupprecht and the Prussian crown prince Wilhelm travelled to the Orient using the services of the North German Lloyd in 1898 and 1911, respectively. Wilhelm’s documentation of his trip, which followed the same route as Franz Ferdinand’s, was published in 1911 in two versions, a book and a limited-edition portfolio, while Rupprecht’s appeared much later, in 1922. As Queen Victoria’s great-grandson, on this occasion he became colonel-in-chief of a British regiment, the Prince Albert’s Hussars, an event that was also documented photographically. In the photographs, he is shown parading with an English sentry and with dragoons in various locations in India.
The Hohenzollern prince, like Franz Ferdinand, focused on his hunting of tigers and leopards in Mirzapur and Hyderabad, with one of the coloured plates showing two leopards shot by the prince on 23 January 1911. Back in Europe, Franz Ferdinand’s photos of his prey, displayed by a group of seven Indians surrounding the Archduke, had been similarly retouched at the photographic studio of Carl Pietzner, who left only his highness and the tiger, surrounded by oriental wilderness, in the frame.60 A later republication of the photograph put the Indians back in the picture.61
Noble families of old lineage used to be, as Norbert Elias argued in 1939, the main authors of Europe’s civilizing process; but as the world public witnessed with awe and mixed feelings, the very civilization they had shaped was turning against them.62 The ethnographic collections they had assembled were used to give authority to the autonomy of individual Habsburg ethnicities; the photographers, painters, composers, and writers who were once employed by the courts to write hagiographies and eulogies to the dynastic families now testified to the waning of their authority. In the Habsburg Empire, the commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of Franz Josef’s rule in 1898 coincided with the fiftieth anniversary of the revolutions against the Habsburg family.63 Similarly, in Britain the celebration of European culture at home – in Grand Expositions, museums, and such like – coincided with the nascent anti-colonial rebellions in the rest of the world. They were, in the satirical language of Robert Musil, ‘parallel actions’ (Parallelaktion). In this process, the old dynasties acquired a new property – that of a celebrity of decline – suggesting that what seemed to be parallel developments were in fact crossroads of imperial disintegration.
A peculiar reversal had occurred. As early as the 1850s, royal courts like those of the Habsburgs and the Bonapartes had employed court photographers. Those same photographers also produced typological ethnographic images of their subjects, both in Europe – producing exotic-looking images of various Slavic peoples – and beyond, such as a series of images of non-Europeans.64 Court painters and photographers accompanied royal parties on grand tours where they documented acts that now appear inhuman, like the sale of women in a Constantinople market. But only a few decades later, those same photographers documented the executions of members of royal families, and some of them also became the chief authors of critical depictions of European imperial rule.
Imperial dynasties historically had a high level of control not only over their own image, but also over the cultural memory of actions carried out in their name. This was a form of cultural power or charisma at which the Habsburgs excelled even above the other families. As patrons of artists in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Habsburg rulers supported such masters as Arcimboldo, Diego Velàzquez, Albrecht Dürer, and Albrecht Altdorfer, who had created memorable allegories of individual rulers and dynastic lines. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, other princely houses throughout Europe commissioned artists such as Giambattista Tiepolo to represent them in allegorical frescoes of empire. What theorist of culture Guy Debord once said of the premodern Chinese emperors applies equally to Europe’s dynasties: they were the private owners of history and the immortality of the soul, as each family sought to be the monopolist of Europe’s cultural memory.65 In architecture, too, the courts of major and minor princes left a fashionably neo-classical imprint on the architecture of not only the metropoles but also that of the colonies.
However, in the modern era, these tools of representation increasingly escaped the control of the royal courts.66 During the French Revolution, the Jacobins managed to recruit the nation’s leading painters, such as Jacques-Louis David, to draw allegories of rebellion against the old order. This kind of change in control over art and culture made it possible for Jean-Paul Marat, a comparatively short-lived political figure with no dynastic power, to obtain a greater celebrity upon his death than the publicly executed Habsburg queen, Marie Antoinette.67 Likewise, after the French occupation of Spain under Napoleon, a former painter at the court of Napoleon’s brother Joseph, Francisco de Goya, produced a later famous allegorical image of Spanish resistance, using an anonymous man as his chief protagonist.68 Subverting the royal minting of coins, Europeans saw the production of so-called ‘medals of dishonour’, where the imprint of a ruler in decline, Napoleon, was used to ridicule and mock rather than to celebrate and extol.69 The palaces of governors and viceroys in their prime were as imposing as their destruction was dramatic, as attested to by the widely mediated picture of the destroyed palace at Lucknow after the Indian rebellion of 1857, for example. Similarly, during the Russian Revolution artists such as Boris Kustodiev, who had painted one of the last portraitists to represent Tsar Nicholas II in 1915, became enlisted as the revolution’s first ‘court’ painters.
The revolutionaries in France were also the first to open the king’s private art collection to the public. By the end of the nineteenth century, many of Europe’s ruling dynasties followed suit by creating public cultural institutions themselves, but they were too late – the art market was becoming more international, and independent institutions were founded with private capital that did not depend on dynastic authority. In Europe and North America, world fairs and great exhibitions encouraged the display of paintings from several countries in what historians have described as an age of ‘cultural internationalism’.70 Imperial governments tried to control all of these institutions, but the scope was unmanageable. What Tim Blanning described as the ‘power of culture’ could also be used against those who had originally commissioned it.71
The loss of control over their own image was not a problem only for the old dynasties. Governments of every kind, including the Republican government of the United States, found it difficult to control the dissemination of visual information that could serve to critique their policies. The political impact of this opening up of visual exchange was first felt in the sphere of war documentation. While governments preferred what would now be called embedded painters to depict scenes of war, or commissioned works from trusted artists after the fact, they found it increasingly difficult to prevent critical images from reaching a wider public. For example, the famous Russian battle painter Vasili Vereshchagin, who had been originally hired by the imperial army to depict heroic battle scenes, eventually became a critic of imperialism and sympathized with anarchists and socialists.72 His depictions of the horrors of war, drawn from life and infused with biblical themes, offered a critique of wars regardless of whether they were fought by imperial Russia in Central Asia and Turkey, by the American army in the Philippines, or by the British in India. The international art market allowed him to remain independent from the payments he could have enjoyed from any of these armies. His paintings were displayed in London, Paris, St. Petersburg, Munich, Chicago, and New York, and he also sold paintings internationally. One image showing a dying Russian soldier was banned from a St. Petersburg art salon in 1873, but went on display in art salons in Chicago and Paris; conversely, his painting of British violence against Indians, Blowing from Guns, which revived the memory of the violent crushing of the Sepoy rebellion in 1857, was not displayed in London but was presented in St. Petersburg.73 Such prohibitions, each of which was limited to one state, only increased his popularity. In addition to realist painting, photography was on its way to becoming an effective way to apply political pressure on governments. For instance, the celebrated French photographer Félix Nadar, who was known for his portraiture of some of Europe’s leading monarchs, poets, and celebrities, in 1859 decided to fly over the battle of Solferino in a hot-air balloon to document Habsburg atrocities against the Italians.
Originally, like images of battlefields, pictures of dynastic leaders had served the purpose of what Guy Debord called a ‘total justification’ for the entire social system of empire.74 Royal and noble courts mediated the way dynasties were represented, but also promoted carefully chosen representations of their own subjects, for example by organizing and documenting parades of its subjects according to social and ethnic groups, or providing heroic images of war. Photography itself did not change this tradition. On the contrary, when Maximilian of Habsburg held court in Mexico, for instance, he took with him his court photographer, the Frenchman François Aubert, who produced extensive coverage of courtly life in Mexico City between 1864 and 1867.75 However, changes to the way images were mediated nationally and internationally, together with the reproducibility of the photograph, meant that noble families in the modern era found it increasingly difficult to stop painters, then photographers, and later film-makers from displaying, reproducing, and distributing images on the world market. Walter Benjamin’s claim that the mechanical reproducibility of art reduced the courts’ ability to retain control over the production of art could thus be extended much further: dynasties could no longer exercise control over their own image.76 Images of dynastic rulers were increasingly used as icons of their own decline in a way that differed from the fixed, static symbols of assassinations, such as the monuments and memorials which had dominated aristocratic iconography. Of the dozens of ruling houses in Europe that lost power in the twentieth-century European revolutions, two in particular became repeated targets of political assassinations: the Habsburgs and the Romanoffs, both of which lost several family members in only three generations.
The practice of photography had initially allowed dynasties to modernize their own image; members of Europe’s ruling princely houses were among the first buyers of camerae obscurae, daguerreotypes, and other cameras. The new technologies of representation favoured displays of personal, unique, and unrepeatable characteristics, which initially allowed their aristocratic owners to continue the old hagiographic tradition.77 However, as uses of photography spread socially, the photograph acquired a different documentary value of public significance. People used small postcard-sized photographs as cartes de visite through a process of reproduction invented and patented in Paris in the 1850s. The cards were pocket-sized images, usually of royal families in Europe and of political leaders in the Americas, that came in three sizes: ‘cabinet’, ‘boudoir’, and ‘imperial’.78 The new printing technique used in their production meant that these small photographs were available for a much cheaper price than the more exclusive daguerreotypes.
Public knowledge of royal assassinations far exceeded the boundaries of their empires. With new technologies improving their availability, photographs were increasingly appreciated for their documentary value; they were no longer merely hagiographic in purpose. As photographs became more easily producible and reproducible, they reached an audience that was widening in terms of both social class and geography. Within a span of twenty years, photographers originally trained in Vienna and Paris had opened offices in Berlin, St. Petersburg, Moscow, New York, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, the states of Pernambuco and Bahia, and many other locations, and the press increasingly adopted the medium as documentation of events.79 François Aubert, who had spent time at Emperor Maximilian’s court in Mexico, taking the first ethnographic photographs of Mexicans, was also the one to produce the first images of Maximilian’s body and clothes riddled with bullets after his execution. Another photographer, though he probably did not witness the moment itself, used a montage to recreate the execution of Habsburg emperor Maximilian of Mexico in 1867.80 Likewise, a 1905 daguerreotype of an open carriage in Moscow documented the assassination of Grand Duke Sergius, an uncle of Emperor Nicholas II, by means of nitrogen bomb. Revolutions against the German Barons of the Baltic provinces in Russia left vivid images of demolished country estates, which could be used both to condemn and to sympathize with the revolutionaries.
Of course, not all assassinations were documented in as much detail as that of Maximilian. In the absence of photographs showing the Romanoff family being killed, photographs taken four years prior to their execution in 1918 were scrutinized in the illustrated press and popular biographies to conjure up a feeling of immediacy. Commenting on the photograph of the Romanoff family taken a week before their execution, one article emphasized ‘some of the matchless pearls afterwards stolen from their dead bodies by the murderers’ seen around Alix von Hessen-Darmstadt’s neck.81 Instead of showing the execution of the dynastic family, Soviet film-maker Sergei Eisenstein resorted to metonymic images: a white horse hanging from a Petersburg bridge, symbolizing the destruction of an aristocratic culture, and statues and palaces being demolished in the name of the revolution. This gave viewers a punctum of tragic experience, to borrow a concept from Roland Barthes’s analysis of modern myth-making. In the twentieth century, the Habsburgs and the Romanoffs shared what historian Boris Kolonitskii describes as the ‘tragic eroticism’ of dynastic families in decline: the irrational appeal of the royal family even and especially at the time of its greatest weakness.82
If it had not been for the Habsburg’s famous death, the young Prussian count Kessler would have never set foot on the colonial city of Querétaro, in north-central Mexico, which lay outside his travel route when he came to Mexico as part of his Grand Tour in 1896. As a student, Kessler had attended lectures by Wilhelm Wundt, whose multivolume comparative study on global ‘folk psychology’ captured the imagination of many students at the time, including Sigmund Freud.83 As Kessler remarked in his Notes on Mexico of 1898, ‘[o]urs is possibly the last time when you can still travel; we are already hardly able to escape our civilisation; the image remains surprisingly the same from one part of the world to the other’.84 One of the world’s first users of a Kodak-2, and a great admirer of modern French art, Kessler dedicated most of his trip, a modern Grand Tour, to ethnographic exploration, documenting the Aztec ruins of the Yucatán peninsula. While in Mexico, he was a guest at the Jockey Club of Mexico City, the place where members of high society mingled, just as they did in Vienna and Prague. One General O. (Ochoa) he knew apparently owned the Popocatepetl. This trip resulted in an ‘anthropology of decadence’, as biographer Laird Easton put it; Kessler would stop at palaces and haciendas belonging to the influential local elite with professional ties to his father.85
Querétaro and the Yucatán ruins marked for Kessler the boundaries of European civilization and the image of a savage other. Born a year after Maximilian’s execution, Kessler was the son of a Prussian banker, who had been ennobled by Wilhelm I, and an actress of Anglo-Irish nobility, whose father and grandfather were British imperial civil servants in Baghdad and in India. He had attended St. George’s school in Ascot and was acquainted with the English admirers of modernist art, such as the Bloomsbury group and Roger Fry especially. In later years, on his travels along the Italian coast, he passed Maximilian’s castle of Miramar and observed that ‘the last Habsburgs knew how to die in beauty; Maximilian of Mexico, the Empress Elizabeth, the Archduke Rudolf, here, the Archduke Ludwig Salvator, even the humble grave of the last emperor in the small village church on Madeira, evoke aesthetic respect’. By contrast, ‘the last Hohenzollerns are a slap in the face of any aesthetics, even any human respect with their rawness, fickleness, wildness and lack of taste; the last Habsburgs end their days as gentlemen, the last Hohenzollerns like carters’.86 Worse still, at this point former German emperor Wilhelm II, whom Kessler hated, was still alive, exiled in Doorn, in the Netherlands.
The tourism industry around the Habsburgs had begun with the court itself licensing specific photographers to disseminate images of their estates to a wider public. Thus the copyright licence for distributing images of Miramar as well as monuments to Maximilian belonged to the Trieste-born photographer Guglielmo Sebastianutti. But the industry far outlived the family’s own power. In the context of a blooming cultural production on the theme of crisis and decline characteristic of this period, publications on Maximilian picked up. The composer Franz Liszt wrote several works dedicated to Maximilian. Vienna State Opera commissioned the modernist composer Ernst Krenek to write a stage work on the Habsburg emperor Karl V, the reluctant emperor who agreed to have his empire reduced by half and lost the Spanish part to the Bourbons in the sixteenth century, with references to Maximilian. Outside Austria, the resonance was equally great. In Paris, Darius Milhaud wrote several musical works on the subject.87 In Mexico City, the journalist Carleton Beales, who formed part of a circle of modernist Bohemians that comprised the photographer Tina Modotti, rediscovered a forgotten memoir of Maximilian’s private secretary, and edited its English translation for Yale University Press.88
In Germany, Maximilian was a topic of discussion among the new government elites, especially since the famous director Max Reinhardt staged Franz Werfel’s play Maximilian und Juarez. Count Kessler’s diary tells us about a conversation about it that involved the director of the Reichsbank and member of the German Democratic Party, Hjalmar Schacht; the French ambassador Roland de Margerie; the academic Otto Hoetzsch; and the president of the Reichstag, Paul Löbe.89
By 1938, Manet’s painting and Werfel’s play served as the basis for a film made in Hollywood by German expatriate Wilhelm (William) Dieterle, which extolled the new world republicanism of Mexican revolutionary Benito Juárez against the evil character of Napoleon III, who represented ‘Old Europe’. By this point, in addition to Manet’s Spanish source for the painting, Goya’s allegory of Spanish resistance, Dieterle had one more Spanish reference to consider. Photographer Robert Capa had produced the world’s first image of a man being shot dead, printed for the French magazine Vu and the American journal Life, and later discussed in his book Death in the Making.90 It showed a republican soldier in the Spanish Civil War being shot by Franco’s troops.91 Dieterle, a German who belonged to the ‘left’ scene in Hollywood’s expat community, effectively merged the two images into one, reviving the icon for the screen. The mediated production of this and other Habsburg tragedies, encouraged by the opening of the archives, turned the tragic story of one Habsburg prince into a foil, a ‘transitional object’ for various narratives of European decline.92 Dieterle worked more in the tradition of a Goya than a Jacques-Louis David, making allegories of revolutionaries, rather than deceased rulers. His first published image had been a portrait of Leon Trotsky in 1932.93 In a sense, both Juárez and Maximilian are two faces of revolution; while the old European powers and the United States are forces of empire.
Many of the hagiographic films of Habsburg decline were produced by actors, directors, and composers, who, although they had been subjects of the Romanoff and Habsburg dynasties, were no particular admirers of the family: actors and directors Joseph von Sternberg and Alexander Korda, for example, or the composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold. For them, the stories of dynastic decline served as a way of rethinking their own loss of identity.94 The deaths of these monarchs, in many cases, were ‘pseudo-events’ in the age of mass culture not because they never happened but because the meaning that was attributed to them stood in for many other dimensions of imperial decline. In the same way, few people beyond the borders of the Austro-Hungarian Empire had even heard of Franz Ferdinand when he was shot in 1914. Instead, interpreters focused on the ‘doubly symbolic’ name of his assassin, Gavrilo Prinzip, who they saw as a modern Archangel Gabriel sent to earth to let loose a ‘world-cataclysm’.95
The growing film industry allowed a much wider audience to share in the experience of decline. The world’s leading film production companies, based in the Soviet Union and in Hollywood, reproduced the memory of dynastic decline and its symbols for a much wider audience and an increasingly global market. These films included Sergei Eisenstein’s film October (1928), for example, which documents the Revolution of 1917, or Esfir’ Shub’s Padenie dinastii Romanovykh (The Fall of the Romanoff Dynasty) (1927), a documentary. Other films on the subject include works by film-makers based in Germany – for example, Alexander Korda with his Tragödie im Hause Habsburg (Tragedy in the House of Habsburg) (1924), and Rudolf Raffé with the film Das Schicksal derer von Habsburg – die Tragödie eines Kaiserreiches (The Fate of the von Habsburgs – the Tragedy of an Empire) (1928), which featured the young Leni Riefenstahl as an actress and was filmed on location at Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna. In Hollywood, there were Erich von Stroheim’s The Wedding March (1928), one of the last silent movies; Sidney Franklin’s Reunion in Vienna (1933), about romance and social crisis in the aftermath of the First World War; The King Steps Out (1936), about Franz Josef’s romance with Elizabeth, directed by Joseph von Sternberg; The Great Waltz (1938), a film about Johann Strauss junior’s ambivalent relationship to the European revolutionaries of 1848; Juárez (1939) the story of Emperor Maximilian of Mexico, produced by Wilhelm Dieterle; and in the 1950s, a revival of the image of Sisi in Hollywood and Austrian films.96
As a form of voluntary homelessness, globetrotting first became an activity for the affluent, and typically male, members of the modern world. Private and corporate organizers profited from the availability of new travel routes, backed by the military power of European imperial governments. The Suez Canal, which opened in 1869, allowed direct passage from the Mediterranean to the Red and Arabian seas as well as the Indian Ocean.97 Thomas Cook’s company alone claimed to have organized tours for over two million people, including not only Europe’s aristocracy but also its cultural celebrities like Robert Louis Stevenson.98 Following Emperor Franz Josef’s presence at the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 in his capacity as King of Jerusalem, his family members also discovered the Orient as a travel destination.99 The visit of Crown Prince Rudolf to the area in 1881 was a state occasion.100 About a hundred years later, the Suez Canal became the symbol of decolonization.101
The travel notes to exotic countries that the Habsburgs left behind echoed those of other princes of their generation, such as the Saxe-Coburg Gothas, and the Hohenzollerns. They show princes shooting rare animals such as leopards and lions, which were circulated in the European press. Yet at the end of the European civil wars around the First World War, such noble celebrities themselves became victims of assassinations. The exotic cultures that they used to collect, such as the ‘savage’ cultures of the Aztec, instead became the starting point for a new type of modern imagination. Court publishers promoted work of ‘ethnographies’ not only of non-European savages, but increasingly also of their own subjects, particularly the Southern Slavs.102 However, the Habsburgs soon became objects of touristic and ethnographic interest. The Austrian museum of ethnography has displayed the Habsburg collections of Aztec memorabilia, such as the Penacho, the alleged feather crown of Montezuma, as part of its national heritage ever since the Habsburgs had acquired the crown.103 But in the twentieth century, even that crown has become an object of dispute between the Austrian state and Mexico. The old rulers had introduced European publics to the “savage” mind; and inspired by these images, this public now rediscovered the power of transgressing a taboo. Heine had been right: Vitzliputzli, the Aztec god of anti-colonial resistance, had finally reached Europe.
2 Regina Höfer (ed.), Imperial Sightseeing. Die Indienreise von Erzherzog von Franz Ferdinand von Österreich-Este (Vienna: Museum für Völkerkunde, 2010), 82–84.
3 Wladimir Aichelburg, Der Thronfolger und die Architektur (Vienna: Neuer Wissenschaftlicher Verlag, 2003), 23.
4 Georg Schreiber, Habsburger auf Reisen (Vienna: Ueberreuter, 1994).
5 Emil Ludwig, Wilhelm Hohenzollern, The Last of the Kaisers (New York and London: G.B. Putnam’s, 1927), 433–434.
6 ‘If one man’s pistol shots had brought about the French Revolution and he had left the world for a prison to re-enter it after Waterloo, his eyes would not have looked at such a change as will Gavrilo Prinzip’s in 1934 – or earlier, if the Allies win. True, Prinzip’s shots were not really the cause of the war; the cause lay deeper. […] But the assassination at Sarajevo was the signal gun’: ‘Anniversary of the War’s Origin’, New York Times, 27 June 1915.
7 Timothy Snyder, The Red Prince. The Fall of a Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Europe (London: Vintage, 2009).
8 Antoine Lilti, ‘Reconnaissance et célébrité: Jean-Jacques Rousseau et la politique du nom propre’, in Orages, Littérature et culture, n 9, mars 2010, 77–94; Lilti, Figures publiques. L’invention de la célébrité 1750–1850 (Paris: Fayard, 2014).
9 Chris Rojek, Celebrity (London: Reaktion, 2001), 105.
10 Rojek, Celebrity, 13; P. David Marshall, Celebrity and Power: Fame in Contemporary Culture (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), 8.
11 This capacious definition belongs to Daniel J. Boorstin, The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America (New York: Atheneum, 1961).
12 Georg Simmel, ‘Exkurs über den Adel’, in Simmel, Soziologie. Untersuchungen über die Formen der Vergesellschaftung (Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot, 1908), 732–746; Ronald G. Asch, ‘Aristocracy and Gentry’, entry in Europe 1450–1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World, ed. Jonathan Dewald, 6 vols. (New York: Scribner, 2004), 96–102; Eckart Conze, Kleines Lexikon des Adels. Titel, Throne, Traditionen (Munich: Beck, 2005).
13 Karl Marx, Das Kapital. Kritik der Politischen Ökonomie, vol. I, ch. 2 (Hamburg: Otto Meissner, 1867), cited after the translation by David McClelland, in Karl Marx, An Abridged Edition, ed. David McClelland (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), 52.
14 Marie Tanner, The Last Descendant of Aeneas: The Hapsburgs and the Mythic Image of the Emperor (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993), 146ff.
15 Ernst Kantorowicz, The King’s Two Bodies: A Study in Medieval Political Theology (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1957); for more recent treatments of the theme, see Emmanuel Levinas, Otherwise than Being: or, Beyond Essence, transl. Alphonso Lengis (Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 2005).
16 James Frazer, The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion (New York: Macmillan, 1925), see esp. Preface from 1922; and Frazer, ‘The Killing of the Khazar Kings’, in Folk-lore, xviii (1917), 382–407.
17 Thomas R. Metcalf, Ideologies of the Raj (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997); Veena T. Oldenburg, Colonial Lucknow, 1856–1877 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990).
18 Eva Giloi, Monarchy, Myth, and Material Culture in Germany, 1750–1950 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011).
19 Norbert Elias, Court Society (Oxford: Blackwell, 1983); Tim Blanning, The Power of Culture and the Culture of Power (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002); Edward Berenson and Eva Giloi (eds.), Constructing Charisma: Celebrity, Fame, and Power in Nineteenth-Century Europe (Oxford: Berghahn, 2010); Dominic Lieven, The Aristocracy in Europe, 1815–1914 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993). Erzherzog Franz Ferdinand. Unser Thronfolger. Zum 50. Geburtstag, eds. Leopold Freiherr von Chlumetzky, Theodor v. Sosnosky et al., Illustriertes Sonderheft der Oesterreichischen Rundschau (Vienna and Leipzig: K.u.K. Hofdruckerei, 1913), 9–11, 9.
20 Ibid., Georg Graf Wycielski, ‘Erzherzog Franz Ferdinand als Kunstfreund’, Chlumetzky et al., Unser Thronfolger, 55–85.
21 Ahnen-Tafel seiner kaiserlichen Hoheit des durchlauchtigsten Herrn Erzherzogs Franz Ferdinands von Oesterreich-Este, bearbeitet von Otto Forst (Vienna, 1910). Cited after Theodor von Sosnosky, ‘Erzherzog Franz Ferdinand’, in Erzherzog Franz Ferdinand. Unser Thronfolger. Zum 50. Geburtstag, 9–11, 9.
22 Wycielski, ‘Erzherzog Franz Ferdinand als Kunstfreund’, 55–85.
23 David Cannadine, Ornamentalism: How the British Saw Their Empire (London: Allen Lane, 2001).
24 AT-OeStA/HHStA UR AUR 187 Privilegium Maius, 1156.09.17, at www.archivinformationssystem.at/detail.aspx?ID=29082.
25 On Petrarca’s letter, see Francesco Petrarca, letter to Karl IV of Habsburg, in Francesco Petrarca, Lettere senili, ed. G. Fracassetti, 2 vols., vol. 2 (Florence: Le Monnier, 1870), 490–497. On the history of the forgery, see Eva Schlotheuber, ‘Das Privilegium maius – eine habsburgische Fälschung im Ringen um Rang und Einfluss’, in Die Geburt Österreichs. 850 Jahre Privilegium minus (Regensburg: Schnell and Schnell, 2007), 143–165. Wilhelm Wattenbach, ‘Die österreichischen Freiheitsbriefe. Prüfung ihrer Echtheit und Forschungen über ihre Entstehung’, in Archiv für Kunde Österreichischer Geschichtsquellen, 8 (1852), 77–119.
26 Karl Scherzer (ed.), Reise der österreichischen Fregatte Novara um die Erde, 3 vols. (Vienna: Carl Gerold, 1861–76).
27 On Freud’s interpretations of these, see Rubén Gallo, Freud’s Mexico. Into the Wilds of Psychoanalysis (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT University Press, 2010).
28 Kaiser von Mexiko Maximilian, Reiseskizzen, Aphorismen, Gedichte, vol. 7, Reiseskizzen XII, Aphorismen, Gedichte (Leipzig: Duncker und Humblot, 1867), 18.
29 Erzherzog Maximilian, Gedichte, vol. 1 (Vienna: Aus der kaiserlich-königlichen Hof- und Staatsdruckerei, 1863), ‘Geisterstimmen im Urwald’, 51; ‘Der entthronte Fürst’, 52–56; ‘Eisenbahn im Urwald’, 70–71. All written in 1860.
30 Dieser unzivilisierte,/ Abergläubisch blinde Heide/ Glaubte noch an Treu und Ehre/ Und an Heiligkeit des Gastrechts. […] Dort auf seinem Thronaltar/ Sitzt der große Vitzliputzli,/ Mexikos blutdürst´ger Kriegsgott./ Ist ein böses Ungetüm,// Doch sein Äußres ist so putzig,/ So verschnörkelt und so kindisch,/ Daß er trotz des innern Grausens/ Dennoch unsre Lachlust kitzelt. Heinrich Heine, ‘Vitzliputzli’ (1851), in Heine, Werke und Briefe in zehn Bänden, vol. 2 (Berlin and Weimar: Aufbauch, 1972).
31 Susanne Zantop, Colonial Fantasies: Conquest, Family, and Nation in Precolonial Germany, 1770–1870 (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1997), 145.
32 Zantop, Colonial Fantasies, 141ff.; see also Paul Ricoeur, Oneself as Another, transl. Katherine Blamey (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992).
33 Karl Marx, ‘The Intervention in Mexico’, The New York Daily Tribune, 23 November 1861. Accessed 5 March 2012 at www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1861/11/23.htm.
34 Catherine Irvine Gavin, The Cactus and the Crown (New York: Doubleday, 1962).
35 Felix zu Salm-Salm, Queretaro: Blätter aus meinem Tagebuch in Mexico: nebst einem Auszuge aus dem Tagebuche der Prinzessin Agnes zu Salm-Salm (Leipzig: Körner, 1868); Maximilian Baron von Alvensleben, With Maximilian in Mexico (London: Longmans, Green, & Co., 1867).
36 ‘Emperor to Aged Singer. Francis Joseph Grateful to Woman Who Would Not Deride Carlota’, New York Times, 29 July 1901.
37 Sigrid Faltin and Andreas Schäfler, La Paloma – Das Lied (Hamburg: Mare, 2008).
38 Maximilian Freiherr von Alvensleben, With Maximilian in Mexico: From the Notebook of a Mexican Officer (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1867); Anonymous, Enthüllungen über die letzten Lebenstage und die Hinrichtung des Kaisers Maximilian I. von Mexico: nebst den nach seiner Gefangennahme gefundenen geheimen, nicht handschriftlichen papieren und correspondenzen (London: Fillmore & Cooper, 1867); in French as Maximilien, Empereur du Mexique. Sa vie, sa mort, sou procès. Détails intimes at inédits (Paris: Lebigré-Duquesne, 1867). See also Anonymous, ‘Maximilian’, in The Peoples Magazine, 1 (1867), 683–684; Anonymous, Maximilian: A Tragedy [in three acts and in verse] (Dublin: George Herbert, 1868). Anonymous, Kaiser Maximilians Erhebung und Fall; Originalcorrespondenzen und Documente in geschichtlichem Zusammenhange dargestellt (Leipzig: Duncker und Humblot, 1867); transl. into French as L’élevation et la chute de l’empereur Maximilien (Paris: Librairie Internationale, 1868); into Spanish, as Elevacion y caida del emperador Maximiliano. Intervencion francesa en México. 1861–1867 (México: Impr. el comercio, de N. Chavez, 1870); in Czech, as Maxmilianuv podvraceny Trun v Mexiku. Zevrubne vypsani bournych I krvavych udalosti Mexickych (Prague: Styblo, 1867). Contemporaries’ memoirs: Gräfin Kollonitz, Eine Reise nach Mexico im Jahre 1864 (Vienna: C. Gerold’s Sohn, 1867). Franz Liszt, Marche funèbre: pour piano. Années de pélerinage VI. Marche funèbre. En mémoire de Maximilian I, Empereur du Mexique, [mort] 19 juin 1867. ‘In magis et voluisse sat est.’ Grove 163, no. 6, Les fils de B.Schott; Schott & Comp.; Maison Schott; Schott frères.
39 José Luis Blasio, Maximilian. Emperor of Mexico. Memoirs of His Private Secretary, transl. Robert Hammond Murray, Introduction Carleton Beals (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1934), first published as Maximiliano intimo: El emperador Maximiliano y su corte: memorias de un secretario particular (Paris and Mexico: G. Bouret, 1905).
40 Anonymous, ‘Who bids for Mexico?’, The Times, 9 January 1867, 7.
41 Kaiser von Mexiko Maximilian, Mein erster Ausflug. Wanderungen in Griechenland (Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig, 1868).
42 Ibid., 126 (on Lucca) and 145 (on England). Lucca (1851). See also commentary, 136.
43 Egon Caesar Count Corti, Maximilian and Charlotte of Mexico, transl. Catherine Alison Phillips, 2 vols. (New York and London: Knopf, 1928); Daniel Dawson, The Mexican Adventure (London: G. Bell & Sons, 1935).
44 Corti, Maximilian and Charlotte, vol. 1, vii.
45 Ibid., 410.
46 Dawson, The Mexican Adventure, 396, 407.
47 Manet, La Chronique des Arts et de la curiosité, www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2006/Manet/detail_litograph_oilsketch.htm.
48 Ibid., 316.
49 Julius Meier-Graefe, Edouard Manet (Munich: Piper, 1912), 7.
50 Ibid., 316.
51 National Gallery archives, NG3294, details of sale and publications. See also Richard Shone, ‘Keynes’ Economies of Sale’, The Guardian, 11 May 1996.
52 Heinrich Heine, Lutetia, xxxviii (1841), in Heine, Historisch-Kritische Gesamtausgabe, vol. 13:1, ed. Manfred Windfuhr (Düsseldorf: Hoffmann und Campe, 1988), 145. More on Delacroix and Delaroche in Hans-Werner Schmidt and Jan Nicolaisen (eds.), Eugène Delacroix & Paul Delaroche, Leipzig, Museum der bildenden Künste (Petersberg: Michael Imhof Verlag, 2015).
53 ‘Embarkation of the Body of the Late Emperor Maximilian at Vera Cruz, Mexico’, The Illustrated London News, 11 January 1868, 32.
54 Sigmund Freud, ‘Case Histories (“Little Hans” and the “Rat Man”)’ (1909), in James Strachey (ed.), The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, transl. James Strachey, in collaboration with Anna Freud, assisted by Alix Strachey and Alan Tyson, vol. 10 (London: The Hogarth Press, 1955), 212, 261.
55 See the map of political assassinations reproduced in Benedict Anderson, Under Three Flags. Anarchism and the Anti-Colonial Imagination (London: Verso, 2005), 76, and discussion, 69–88.
56 Sigmund Freud, ‘Trauer und Melancholie’, in Internationale Zeitschrift für Ärztliche Psychoanalyse, 4:6 (1917), 288–301; Sigmund Freud, from Fliess papers, Manuscript G: Melancholie (no date, probably 1895), in James Starchey ed., vol. 1, Pre-psycho-analytic publications and unpublished drafts (1886–1899), 200–206.
57 Aichelburg, Der Thronfolger und die Architektur, 13.
58 Maximilian I, Emperor of Mexico, Recollections of my Life, transl. anonymous., vol. 1 (London: Richard Bentley, 1868), 257.
59 Egon Caesar Count Corti, Maximilian and Charlotte of Mexico, transl. Catherine Alison Phillips, 2 vols., vol. 1 (1924, New York and London: Knopf, 1928), plate facing page 46.
60 Ferdinand, Tagebuch meiner Reise um die Erde, vol. 1, 20.
61 Höfer (ed.), Imperial Sightseeing, Die Indienreise von Erzherzog von Franz Ferdinand von Österreich-Este, 82–84. On posing and photography on sites of colonial violence, see Sean Willcock, ‘Aesthetic Bodies: Posing on Sites of Violence in India, 1857–1900’, in History of Photography, 39:2 (2015), 142–159.
62 Norbert Elias, Der Prozess der Zivilisation (Basel: zum Falken, 1939).
63 For the 1848 revolutions in transnational perspective, see Axel Körner, 1848: A European Revolution? International Ideas and National Memories of 1848, 2nd revised ed. (Basingstoke, N.Y.: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004).
64 Pieter Judson, ‘Inventing Germans: Class, Nationality, and Colonial Fantasy at the Margins of the Hapsburg Monarchy’, in Nations, Colonies, and Metropoles, ed. Daniel A. Segal and Richard Handler, special issue of Social Analysis, 33 (2007), 47–67; on colonial readings of the Habsburgs, see also Ulrich Bach, ‘Sacher-Masoch’s Utopian Peripheries’, in The German Quarterly, 80.2 (Spring 2007), 201–219.
65 Ibid., 132, 97.
66 Leo Braudy, The Frenzy of Renown (New York: Vintage, 1997). See also Braudy, ‘Secular Anointings: Fame, Celebrity, and Charisma in the First Century of Mass Culture’, in Berenson and Giloi (eds.), Constructing Charisma, 165–183.
67 T.J. Clark, ‘Painting in the Year Two’, in Representations, 47, Special Issue: National Cultures before Nationalism (Summer 1994), 13–63.
68 Kenneth Clark, Looking at Pictures (Boston: Beacon Press, 1968), ch. on Goya.
69 Philipp Attwood and Felicity Powell (eds.), Medals of Dishonour (London: The British Museum, 2009).
70 Grace Brockington (ed.), Internationalism and the Arts in Britain and Europe at the Fin de Siècle (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2009).
71 Blanning, The Culture of Power and the Power of Culture.
72 Vassili Vereshchagin, Souvenirs. Enfance – Voyage – Guerre (Paris: Albert Savine, 1888).
73 Vasili Vereshchagin, Second Appendix to Catalogue of the Verestchagin Exhibition: Realism (Chicago: The Art Institute, 1889).
74 Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle, transl. Black & Red (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2010), points 6 and 4, 12–13.
75 For Aubert’s coverage of courtly life and Mexican ethnography, see Photographs of Mexico from the mid-19th century to the early 20th century from the special collections of the Getty Research Institute (2000, updated 2010), http://www.getty.edu/research/tools/guides_bibliographies/photography_mexico/. Accessed 1 July 2014.
76 Walter Benjamin, ‘L’œuvre d’art à l’époque de sa reproduction mécanisée’, transl. Pierre Klossowski, in Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung, 5:1 (1936), 40–66.
77 Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1981); see also his notes for lectures at the Collège de France on Nadar’s photographs of Proust’s circle.
78 Helmut Gernsheim, A Concise History of Photography, 3rd ed. (Toronto: Courier Dover Publications, 1986), 55ff.
79 Armgard Schiffer-Ekhart, Sebastianutti & Benque – Fünf Fotografen. Vier Generationen. Drei Kontinente (Graz: Steiermärkisches Landesmuseum Joanneum, 1997).
80 See Le Figaro, 11 August 1867; cf. also Juliet Wilson-Bareau, Manet, the Execution of Maximilian: Painting, Politics and Censorship (London: National Gallery, 1992).
81 Robert Wilton, The Last Days of the Romanoffs (London: Thornton Butterworth Ltd., 1920), Frontispiece; Anonymous, The Fall of the Romanoffs. How the Ex-Empress and Rasputine Caused the Russian Revolution (London: Henry Jenkins Limited, 1918; New York: E. P. Dutton & Co.); H. McD. S., Review of Exeunt the Romanoffs, The Lotus Magazine, 9:5 (February 1918): 231–233, 235–236. Joseph McCabe, The Romance of the Romanoffs (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1917); Princess Cantacuzène, Revolutionary Days. Recollections of Romanoffs and Bolsheviki, 1914–17 (Boston: Small, Maynard and Company, 1919).
82 Boris Kolonitskii, Tragicheskaya erotika. Obrazy imperatorskoi sem’i v gody Pervoi mirovoi voiny (Moscow: Novoe Literaturnoe Obozrenie, 2010).
83 Wilhelm Wundt, Völkerpsychologie: Eine Untersuchung der Entwicklungsgesetze von Sprache, Mythus, und Sitte, 10 vols. (Leipzig: Engelmann, 1900–20). For the context of Wundt’s work, see Egbert Klautke, The Mind of the Nation: Völkerpsychologie in Germany, 1851–1955 (New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2013).
85 Laird M. Easton, Der rote Graf. Harry Graf Kessler und seine Zeit (Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 2005), 105.
86 Kessler, 26 April 1926, in Kessler, Diaries, vol. 8.
87 Darius Milhaud, Maximilien: opéra historique en trois actes et neuf tableaux (Vienna: Universal-Edition, 1931); and Milhaud, Suite Maximilian (Westminster, New York, 1950, sound recsording, 33 1/3 rpm, 12 in.); Princess Marthe Bibesco, Charlotte et Maximilien: Les Amants Chimériques (Paris: Gallimard, 1937); George Delamare, L’empire oublié; 1861 – l’aventure mexicaine – 1867 (Paris: Hachette, 1935); Franz Werfel, Juárez und Maximilian dramatische historie in 3 Phasen und 13 Bildern (Vienna: Paul Zsolnay Verlag, 1924).
88 Blasio, Maximilian.
89 Kessler, Diary, 12 February 1926.
90 Robert Capa and Gerda Taro, Death in the Making (New York: Covici Friede, 1938).
91 Richard Whelan, ‘Proving that Robert Capa’s “Falling Soldier” is Genuine: A Detective Story’ (2002). The reference is to Robert Capa, ‘Loyalist militiaman at the Moment of Death, Cerro Muriano, September 5, 1936’, in ‘Comme ils sont tombés’, Vu, 445 (23 September 1936), 1106.
94 See Leo Löwenthal, ‘German Popular Biographies: Culture’s Bargain Counter’, in The Critical Spirit. Essays in Honor of Herbert Marcuse, ed. Barrington Moore, Jr., and Kurt H. Wolff (Boston: Beacon Press, 1967), 267–287, originally in Radio Research, 1942–1943, ed. Paul L. Lazarsfeld and Frank Stanton (New York: Arno Press, 1944).
95 Ludwig, Wilhelm Hohenzollern. The Last of the Kaisers, 433–434.
96 Alice Freifeld, ‘Empress Elisabeth as Hungarian Queen: The Uses of Celebrity Monarchism’, in The Limits of Loyalty: Imperial Symbolism, Popular Allegiances, and State Patriotism in the Late Habsburg Monarchy, ed. Laurence Cole and Daniel L. Unowsky (Oxford: Berghahn, 2005), 138–162.
97 On the cultural significance of the Suez Canal as a transimperial contact zone, see Valeska Huber, Channelling Mobilities: Migration and Globalisation in the Suez Canal Region and Beyond, 1869–1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013); for the importance of the Suez Canal for European integration and the Suez crisis in 1956, see Peo Hansen and Stefan Jonsson, Eurafrica: The Untold History of European Integration and Colonialism (London: Bloomsbury, 2014).
98 F. Robert Hunter, ‘Tourism and Empire: The Thomas Cook & Son Enterprise on the Nile, 1868–1914’, in Middle Eastern Studies, 40:5 (September 2004), 28–54, 31.
99 Rudolph von Oesterreich, Eine Orientreise vom Jahre 1881 (Vienna: Kaiserl.-Königl. Hof- u. Staatsdr., 1885).
100 Robert-Tarek Fischer, Österreich im Nahen Osten: die Grossmachtpolitik der Habsburgermonarchie im Arabischen Orient, 1633–1918 (Vienna, Cologne, Weimar: Böhlau, 2006).
101 On the Suez crisis in 1956 and 1957 and Nasser’s demand to nationalize the Suez Canal, see Hansen and Jonsson, Eurafrica, 214ff.
102 Carl von Czoernig, Ethnographische Karte der österreichischen Monarchie (Gotha: Justus Perthes, no year).
103 More on the fascinating history of the Penacho, see Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll, Fragile Crown: Empire, Collection, Repatriation (Chicago: Chicago University Press, forthcoming).
One day in early August 1914, Count Robert Keyserlingk-Cammerau, Prussian governor of Königsberg, was unpleasantly surprised by a knock on his door. His cousin Alfred, imperial administrator of Tsarskoe selo, Tsar Nicholas II’s summer residence near St. Petersburg, was seeking his hospitality for the night. Under normal circumstances, the cousins would have been delighted to meet. This time, however, their meeting created an ethical dilemma. War had broken out in Europe only a few days earlier, a conflict in which the states whose imperial families they served were on opposing sides. Robert, a German imperial civil servant, was obliged to follow orders of his government, which was to arrest any Russian subject found in Königsberg. Alfred had been surprised by the war while travelling in Germany on personal business. He knew that his male staff , some 250 people, were about to be conscripted into the army, leaving the administration of the estates in his hands; he had to get back to St. Petersburg urgently. Finally, he managed to secure a makeshift seat in the toilet cabin of the last, overcrowded train leaving Berlin for Russia, but then got stuck in East Prussia, near the Russian border where, allegedly, Cossacks had disrupted trains passing to Russia. The guards on the train were instructed to take into custody and bring back to Germany all Russian subjects. Alfred narrowly escaped and made his way to Königsberg’s Altes Schloss, where he knew his cousin was resident.1
For one night only, familial ties trumped political allegiance. Before sunrise Alfred departed in his cousin’s official car, past the Prussian guards, to the train station. Having to seek an indirect route back to Russia, he returned to Berlin and took the train to Hamburg, then boarded a boat to Sweden. Personal connections to two famous Petersburgians, the Swedish petroleum magnate Alfred Nobel and the Petersburg delicatessen merchant Grigory Yelisseev, allowed him to board their private steamer, one of the few still operating on the route back to Petersburg. However, only a few days after his arrival there, he was arrested once again – this time, by the Russian gendarmes – and was taken to the Peter and Paul fortress on charges of espionage for Germany. During the ensuing Russian Revolution and Civil War, Alfred joined Kolchak’s ‘white’ army in Siberia, which eventually lost to the Bolsheviks. Robert Keyserlingk became the German Commissioner for Lithuania and the ‘eastern territories’ before taking a post in St. Petersburg, now called Petrograd, as a military attaché, where he sought to promote German interests in Russian monarchist circles.2 Moving to Berlin after the failure of this campaign, he eventually completed his political career in the Federal German Republic as a member of the Prussian Council of State and German agricultural policy advisor at the new World Economic Forum in Geneva.
Such foreign connections could be a curse and a blessing at the same time. For example, Alfred Keyserling, in addition to being a Russian subject and civil administrator of the Tsarskoe selo district, as well as a member of the Courland nobility, was also the founding co-owner of Baltic Lloyd, a commercial navigation agency originally co-financed by Bremer Lloyd and serving the ports of Libau, Emden, and Bremen.3 By the twentieth century, the sort of internationalism that Keyserling and his cousins practised professionally and socially appeared to some, especially to Russians and Germans, like acts of treason.
Today, historians speak of the Great War in an increasingly cosmopolitan sense. The parties that went to war in 1914 were half conscious ‘sleepwalkers’, a reader learns in 2013, and the imperial or national interests they represented were at least one level of scrutiny removed.4 The very idea of war has become broader, comprising the home front and the economic and cultural aspects of life in wartime.
But at the time of the First World War, having a cosmopolitan perspective on the theatre of war was the prerogative of the imperial elites. These included aristocratic families like the Keyserlings, whose familiarity with the administration and economic structure of more than one empire gave them multiple perspectives. Privileges were also incorporated in the institutional fabric of military careers in imperial Europe. Officers of the imperial armies had a shared cultural code and even exchanged institutions of honours. Members of the affluent middle classes could also fall back on experiences of cultural consumption and personal friendships, which could be rekindled after the war. Those among them who produced written accounts of their experience were among the first generation of writers of the First World War who continued seeing the war from the point of view of ‘civil society’. Some of these authors did so while recognizing that their own armies had turned into perpetrators against civilians. In this sense human sympathy, patriotism, and cosmopolitanism were entangled in the writing of officer-intellectuals in ways that were quite different from the twenty-first-century historiography of the conflict.5
In one of his wartime photographs, we can see Count Kessler gazing at the horizon through a periscope.6 This emblematic image of elite vision in the war might, anachronistically, be called a ‘selfie with a periscope’. It is a curious photograph because, in a real situation of danger, an observer would not be standing in an open field. It is the reflexive character of the photograph that is of interest here: this is not a photograph of an officer in action, but one of an officer in narcissistic contemplation. The photograph simulates contemplation as a form of military action, since he is engaged in strategic analysis of the horizon. Yet the ultimate objective of this work is to provide a flattering portrait of the seer, not to communicate what he can see. In the background, the newly entrenched frontiers between the German, the Russian, and the Austro-Hungarian empires, blend into a common horizon of uncertain expectations. But for Kessler, the military frontier becomes a horizon, as he stages himself in Romantic pose. This perspective was familiar to his European contemporaries from such works as Caspar David Friedrich’s Monk by the Sea (1808–10), which a French admirer had once praised for its capacity to convey tragedy in landscapes.7 Like in Friedrich’s famous painting, in this wartime portrait, a monotonous landscape produces a mood and an expression, which traditional portraiture would have projected onto the face of the portrayed. Aside from inverting the relationship between the figure and the landscape, the portrait also deceives the viewers, who cannot see what the figure can see and are thus forced to think and imagine their perception in their own heads. Even more than Friedrich’s monk, Kessler enjoys the privilege of looking through a technical device onto a detail that remains unknown to the viewer of the photograph.
a farmer’s house, some three or four meters in front of it a trench occupied by the Austrians, and some thirty kilometres on the left […] a Russian shelter, from which Russians were walking in and out. On the adjacent field between the Austrian trench and the Russians, some forty meters wide, a small girl was grazing a herd of sheep. As we watched, one of our grenades hit the ground near the shelter, and we could see the Russians rushing out quickly.8
The cold, cinematographic description of his own army’s destruction of military targets along with civilian lives was the very opposite of the kind of ‘flesh-witnessing’, which is so characteristic of the soldier experience in the Great War, including authors such as Ernst Jünger.9 The meaning of the experience derives from detachment, not involvement. Moreover, the tragedy of this experience is not a national one, or associated with any one empire. Before the war, Kessler, who had served as director of the influential German Artists’ Union, promoted an idea of style in which there was no contrast between being a ‘good German’ and a ‘good European’.10 This photograph revealed a new dimension to this statement, transposing it from the realm of conflicts over styles to the realm of military conflicts between the European societies.
It was the desire to capture a complex reality devoid of meaning that prompted another officer who found himself in Galicia, Viktor Shklovsky, to reach further into the reservoirs of European literary history for a narrative model. Like Kessler, Shklovsky had begun his military service in an imperial army – of Russia, in his case – but gradually developed doubts about the logic of empire, without, however, ever fully endorsing the logic of revolution.11 Shklovsky narrated his entire experience of war on the Galician front in the tone of his favourite English-speaking author, Laurence Sterne. His path through the eastern front was a Sentimental Journey with echoes of Sterne’s celebrated Grand Tour to France and the continent. It was meaningless if goals were defined in terms of geographic horizons; in telling about his life, he was merely ‘turning himself into a prepared substance for the heirs’. Yet, this experience of the imperial periphery also reminded him that in literature, it was the peripheral genres that had made breakthroughs in literature: ‘New forms in art are created by the canonization of peripheral forms’, he argued, just as Pushkin had developed the genre of the private album into an art form, as the novel had developed from horror stories like Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and as modernist poetry drew inspiration from gypsy ballads.12 In the same way, he hoped, the travelogue – particularly, his travelogue of a meaningless war on the periphery – would contribute to a new literary form, and a new way of thinking about literature. It did: it created the theory, which he described as ostranenie, or detachment.
To this day, historians refer to those parts of Europe which border on the eastern front and the nation states that flickered into and out of existence during the twentieth century as ‘borderlands’, as the locations of ‘vanished kingdoms’, as ‘half-forgotten Europe’, as ‘invented’ places, or even as ‘no-place’.13 In fact, in all of its history, the geography, if not necessarily the languages and cultures of eastern Europe, has probably never been as well known as in the mid-twentieth century. The image of the East as a great unknown remained a shibboleth of the post-Enlightenment philosophes, a geographic metaphor for the separation between civilization and barbarism, between power and weakness, and, more recently, between primitive national freedom and the imperial domination of modern civilization.
Kessler had experienced the eastern front in the First World War in an ethnographic light that might also be familiar from accounts such as Winston Churchill’s Unknown War.14 By contrast to the western front, the eastern and middle-eastern fronts required the use of more traditional elements in the organization of the army. Large distances had to be covered on uneven terrain, which required extensive uses of cavalry. In his letters, Kessler speculated about whether the former Pale of Settlement could be turned into a vassal empire of the Germans, to be ruled by a Jewish dynasty such as the Rothschild family.15 The search for Europe’s internally colonized peoples, like the Jews and other eastern Europeans who looked exotic, drew artists and anthropologists to the area.16 ‘Tomorrow I am going to the front to examine the battleground and collect details. I suggested sending Vogeler to accompany me so that he could make sketches’, Kessler remarked in his diary.17 The painter Heinrich Vogeler (1872–1942) eventually emigrated to Soviet Russia in 1931, where he died in a labour camp because he was suspected of being a German ‘enemy’.18
War ethnographies and travel literature were modes of thinking about military violence that had developed greatly on the basis of experiences of the eastern front. In the west, tear gas and shelling were the most prominent instruments of war; in the east, where large distances had to be covered and the ground was insecure, cavalry continued to be important, even though contemporaries also report aerial attacks using Zeppelins being a constant danger. Being on the eastern front required a much deeper sort of military intelligence. Confusion was everywhere: Czech nationalists with German names, Poles who thought of themselves as Lithuanians but were socialists at heart, and so on.19 This was still true in the Second World War. During his service for British intelligence, acclaimed historian Hugh Seton-Watson remarked that people in Britain were ‘aware of the existence of Zulus and Malays, Maoris and Afridis’, but eastern Europe with its ‘unpronounceable names’ remained uncharted territory, ‘another world’, full of wild plains and forests.20
At the same time, not all of the encounters on the eastern front were confusing. Particularly officers could rely on having a shared cultural code with others of the same status. As Robert Liddell, a war journalist for the prestigious illustrated journal Sphere, who had just recently moved from the western to the eastern front, recalled, ‘[o]fficers of good family almost invariably could speak French. So could almost every Pole I met, and almost every lady doctor. […] and certainly the soldiers from the Baltic Provinces spoke German as well as they spoke Russian; many, indeed spoke better’.21 He recalled being greatly amused by the following anachronistic words of one Russian general Bielaiev: ‘My boot’, said the general, ‘was filled with the gore of my steed’. General Bielaiev, who had Scottish ancestors, had learnt most of his English by reading Sir Walter Scott. For the purposes of the job, the journalist Liddell served as an officer of the Russian army, travelling along the front line with the Red Cross trains. Even though English was rarely spoken in the Russian army, he could get by on the eastern front despite his relatively poor Russian: the Russian general even called Liddell his fellow countryman, referring to his own Scottish ancestry. The half-mystical eastern Europe, some of whose local cultures, such as that of the Carpathian mountains, were hardly known to western Europeans, became one of the topoi of the ‘war experience’ for German audiences at home, as for instance in the liberal Vossische Zeitung.22
Social scientists also became interested in analysing and representing the various European ethnicities of the eastern front, as in the work of the anthropologist Sven Hedin, Eastwards! (Nach Osten!).23 Hedin, who collected ethnographic observations of the peoples of Europe, was another civilian assigned to Kessler on the eastern front. Kessler, himself once a tourist in search of the exotic, followed Hedin’s activities as he was taking pictures of local churches. The last person to study the wooden architecture of Galicia had been Franz Ferdinand himself.24 Work of ethnography in the eastern front was also produced by German and Russian writers and artists. Arnold Zweig, who worked in German propaganda, provided illustrations of the eastern European Jews. The modernist artists Natalya Goncharova and Marc Chagall also made exotic-looking ‘Jewish types’ the main protagonists of their paintings.25 In German prisoner-of-war camps, the anthropologist Leo Frobenius and a team of linguists ‘worked’ with interned Indians, Caucasians, Central Asians, and Africans from the British, Russian, and French armies to compare their intellectual faculties with those of Europeans.26 Just as embedded photographers have become the order of the day in present-day wars, during the First World War, what might be called ‘embedded war tourism’ attracted a number of journalists and other intellectuals to war zones.
The officer’s role provided opportunities for sentimental detachment thanks to privileged access to such devices as periscopes. Traditionally, the officer class had the advantage of riding on horseback. During the Great War, the horse, the earliest ‘technique’ of aristocratic detachment, was gradually replaced by the airship. Other devices of this kind included special weaponry as well as periscopes and cameras. The mechanisms of detachment were only available to the higher army ranks. They were not limited to technologies but included such practices as the use of embedded artists and journalists assigned to officers. All this enabled members of the officer class to remove themselves from the theatre of war itself, both psychologically and physically. Detachment was an institutionalized privilege.27 Zeppelin airships not only opened up the privilege of being removed from the ground but also offered the freedom to transgress political borders. For the first two decades, flights were almost exclusively a privilege of the few.
One of the first Zeppelin fleets was founded in a Saxon royal regiment. The Saxon nobleman Baron hans Hasso von Veltheim served during the war as a reconnaissance photographer. Veltheim was one of the first German enthusiasts of competitive hot-air ballooning, having joined the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale in 1905. Like the first British air minister, Sir Samuel Hoare, he was among the first generation of European elites to cross international borders by air.28 He noted in his war diary that once he had flown as far as the imperial palace of Peterhof.29 Before being deployed as First Officer of a Zeppelin airship, he had been responsible for photography on the Belgian front, for which he used unmanned tethered balloons as well as airplanes. Veltheim’s panorama shots of the Belgian theatre of war, which he kept in his personal archive, are visual testimonies of this European apocalypse [Fig. 6].
The writing of stylized war diaries like Shklovsky’s, the production of wartime self-portraits and the aesthetics of destruction in reconnaissance photography shot from the air: all these were forms of experiencing and representing horizons which invited reflections on conceptual frontiers. The meta-historical concepts of ‘experience’ and ‘expectation’, which the historian Reinhart Koselleck ascribed to the realm of theoretical reflections on horizons, were rooted in the immediate experiences of imperial horizons.30
The cosmopolitans in the German Society of 1914
As John Maynard Keynes and George Curzon, two lovers of post-impressionist art, arrived in Paris in late March 1918 to bid at an auction of post-impressionist art, the German army was bombing Paris. Count Kessler, German attaché in Bern and another collector of post-impressionism, wrote in his diary: ‘War is a tough thing.’31 He feared the lack of precision in bombing would damage not only Notre Dame and the Bibliothèque Nationale, which were key sites of his intellectual formation, but also the cemetery of Père Lachaise, where his father and his grandparents lay buried.
Kessler’s father had made a fortune in banking, connected to the railway business in Europe and Canada. The German emperor Wilhelm I ennobled him, according to family legend, as a sign of deference to the beauty of his Anglo-Irish wife, Alice Blosse-Lynch. The connection to Paris came from Kessler’s mother, who chose to be based there. It was her side of the family, of Anglo-Irish nobility, with a home in Partrey House in County Mayo, which also made Kessler aware of British imperial history of the British Empire. His grandfather had been a British minister in Baghdad during Mehmet Ali’s rule.32 In March 1925, Kessler met distant Irish relatives in Paris who reported about the effects of the revolution in County Mayo; in the afternoon of the same day, he was engaged in debates of Count Richard Coudenhove’s plans for a pan-European federation with the German ambassador in France.33 Kessler used his connections to British and French contemporaries to foster greater understanding between what he called his three ‘Fatherlands’. His autobiographic cosmopolitanism, his ‘English, German blood, English, German, French cultural heritage’ became a foundation for a particular form of internationalism.34
Returning home after the war, he could barely recognize his own former self: that man from the Belle Epoque, who had commissioned from his French friend Aristide Maillol the sculpture of a cyclist, that furniture designed by Henry van de Velde, a Belgian, and commissioned the British artist Edward Gordon Craig to design illustrations for an edition of Shakespeare’s Hamlet – it was as if this man could no longer exist. In the aftermath of the war, Kessler began to view his background as a unique form of cultural capital. Before the war, friends called him the member of an anti-Wilhelmine ‘Fronde’ of good taste and anti-moralism.35 As his views later radicalized, he earned himself the nickname of ‘Red Count’.
War was a traumatic experience for him. He had witnessed it on the western front, where he saw the German actions against civilians in Belgium first-hand, before being transferred east, which had shocked him no less. Kessler kept a diary, wrote letters, and engaged in discussions to cope with the traumatic experience of war. With his bibliophile Cranach press, which he had founded in 1913, inspired by William Morris’s Arts and Crafts movement, Kessler turned from a Prussian patriot into a patron of doubt.36 He began to publish poetry from the trenches, including by communist poets – ‘Sulamith’ by Wieland Herzfelde and ‘Eroberung’ (‘Conquest’) by the expressionist poet Johannes R. Becher, the latter, in collaboration with the communist publisher Malik.37 Kessler’s press was indeed ‘cosmopolitan’.38 But he also sponsored communist artists like George Grosz and John Heartfield to do the design, often in collaboration with established German presses such as the Insel publishing house.39 In 1921, he published in German War and Collapse. Select Letters from the Front on paper handcrafted with his old French friend Aristide Maillol, with a cover by Georg Grosz.40
The war had blurred boundaries between nations and empires even more: ‘politics and cabaret’, ‘trenches, storming regiments, the dying, U-boats, Zeppelins’, ‘victories’, ‘pacifists’, and the ‘wild newspaper people’, Germany and its capital were surrounded by the least European of enemies, ‘Cossacks, Gurkhas, Chasseurs d’ Afrique, Bersaglieris, Cowboys’. If revolution did break out in this ‘complex organism’, Kessler thought it would be like the Day of Judgement. After all that the German troops had ‘lived through, carried out in Luttich, Brussels, Warsaw, Bucharest’ – Kessler referred to what is known in English as the ‘German outrages’ – these traumatic memories made it difficult to imagine a future for Germany.41
In Germany, Kessler belonged to a network of German elites who came together to discuss policy. Founded just after the outbreak of the war, the German Society of 1914 was a political club that had been initiated by prominent figures in German public life. Among its members were people such as the diplomat Wilhelm Solf, the landowner and industrialist Guido Henckel von Donnersmarck, the writer Richard Dehmel, the industrialist Robert Bosch, the painter Lovis Corinth, the theatre director Max Reinhardt, and the notorious Pomeranian professor of Classics Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Möllendorff. The club represented German society as it had crystallized since the Franco-Prussian War and the founding of the German Reich in 1871, displaying the mutual influence between the feudal, the industrial, and the creative elites of German public life under the banner of German patriotism. Most of the German Society’s key members remained committed to German politics throughout their life. Walther Rathenau, the liberal technocrat, served as Prussia’s war supplies director, advocating the London air raids, which were carried out from Zeppelin airships, and later became foreign minister until his assassination by a right-wing paramilitary group in 1922; Hjalmar Schacht, the banker, directed German economic policy under the Weimar Republic and the Nazis up to 1937; the painters Liebermann and Corinth came to shape the public image of the German landscape with their plein-air paintings of Brandenburg and Pomeranian lakes; the publishers Samuel Fischer and Anton Kipppenberg became representatives of the classics of German literature as such. Among the club’s youngest members was the liberal Theodor Heuss, who would live to become the first German president of the Federal Republic after the Second World War.
But not all Germans in this society were patriots or defenders of its military strategy in the war. The philosopher Hermann Keyserling was another person Kessler met there on a regular basis. One of his first political publications was an article published in English titled ‘A Philosopher’s View of the War’. There, he criticized the nationalist sentiments fuelling the war from both a Christian and a universalist perspective.42 Keyserling protested against the war as ‘Russian citizen’ and a pacifist.43 He published this work in the journal associated with the British Hibbert Trust.44 Founded in the previous century by Robert Hibbert, a wealthy Bloomsbury aristocrat who made his money in the Jamaican slave trade, it represented the ecumenical and largely pacifist values of the Unitarian Church. It regularly invited contributions on general topics discussed from a spiritual point of view. Among its contributors were the French historian Ernest Renan, the Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore, and the German doctor and intellectual Albert Schweitzer.
When his friend, the sociologist Georg Simmel, heard about this, he warned Keyserling that he may have to cease their friendship if rumours about Keyserling’s anti-German sentiments turned out to be true.45 A subject of the Russian Empire, Keyserling had not been drafted into the army due to an earlier duel injury. By the end of the war, he was caught by the revolution on his estate in Russia’s province of Courland. He spent this time working on an essay he titled Bolshevism or the Aristocracy of the Future. Between 1918 and 1920, he later remarked, ‘centuries had passed’.46 He had seen previous revolutions, like the one in 1905, when his estate was burnt, and he also witnessed a revolution in China and elsewhere. But unlike then, he saw that the old empires could now no longer hold on to their prestige. Among the voices heard at Brest-Litovsk, Keyserling remarked, it was not that of the old Prussian or Austrian diplomats but that of the Bolshevik Leon Trotsky that won the game. Much to the confusion of his contemporaries, particularly of similar social background, he thought that listening to Trotsky was necessary in order to make room for a new, truly European aristocracy of the future.47
Defending himself against charges of anti-German propaganda during the First World War, Keyserling thought that idea of Germany could only survive as a ‘supranational’ idea: ‘in the interrelated and correlated Europe of tomorrow, the spiritual root of that which once blossomed forth in the form of the Holy Roman Empire of German nationality – the supranational European idea – will once again become the determinant factor of history, in a greater, more expansive form, conforming to the spirit of the time’.48
In early November 1918, the German government appointed Kessler as a German envoy. His task was to release the leader of the Polish legion, Jozef Piłsudski, from Magdeburg fortress, where he was held prisoner during the war. Pilsudski had been granted the right to lead a Polish legion within the Habsburg army, but as a Polish nationalist, he had been unwelcome to the Austrians. Now that it was clear that Austria-Hungary would not be resurrected, Germany had other ways of making use of this prisoner. At the end of the war, the legion became the nucleus of a Polish nation state.49 As early as 1915, German officers had approached Piłsudski in Volhynia, soliciting his opinions on the future of eastern and central Europe.50 At this point, Piłsudski’s Polish Legion formed part of the multinational Habsburg army. At the same time, it was increasingly taking up the powers and duties of a future Polish state; as a representative of the future Polish nation, Piłsudski refused to give an oath of allegiance to the central powers and was therefore taken prisoner by the German imperial army.51
Railway networks had been crucial elements of European imperial growth as well as inter-imperial financial networks in the nineteenth century. While such projects as the Baghdad railway line brought together private investors across different European states and beyond, they remained publicly associated with the imperial Great Game between the European nations.52 But in the course of the war, trains also gained a key role in Europe’s post-imperial transformation. During the war, members of the German diplomatic staff worked together with Swiss politicians to facilitate the arrival of Lenin and his entourage in Russia to promote revolution there in April 1917.53 Immediately after the war, Kessler was involved in a similar, if more modest, undertaking. It paralleled Lenin’s German-sponsored passage to Russia (the preparation of which Kessler also witnessed in Bern) insofar as the German executive powers had asked Kessler personally to escort Piłsudski from Magdeburg to Warsaw in a special sealed train.54
Kessler described this episode in one of several small memoirs that he would publish to great acclaim in the liberal German journal Die Neue Rundschau. The lens through which he chose to interpret this situation was the persistence of chivalric values at a time of revolution. When Kessler personally met Piłsudski upon his release from Magdeburg prison, he handed him his sword. Together, they travelled back to Warsaw on a luxurious personal train, which took off from Bahnhof Friedrichstraße and was equipped to the standards of an ‘American billionaire’. Both the aristocratic and the oligarchic elements in this handover of power contrasted markedly with the executive powers that had entrusted Kessler with this task as the fate of the revolutionaries in Germany itself was far from clear.55
In December 1918, Kessler oversaw the withdrawal of German troops from Poland, and Poland established a nationalist government with closer ties to France than to Germany.56 Kessler later recalled that the Polish leader gave him ‘an oral declaration in the form of a word of honour because I had refused to demand a written declaration from him’ that he would not claim German territory.57 Piłsudski and Kessler probably shared certain characteristics, such as their background from lower nobility, the ‘Prussian’ sense of military honour, and a Mazzinian cosmopolitan nationalism.58 Kessler saw it as the duty of persons of higher standing, such as Piłsudski and himself, ‘to lead our nations out of their old animosity into a new friendship’.59 In the Polish, German, Dutch, British, and American press, rumours were circulating in December 1918 that Kessler was providing support for a ‘Bolshevik’ uprising in Poland using government money.60 In fact, however, Piłsudski assured him that he was pursuing a policy of social democracy aimed at steering clear of Bolshevism. Indeed, Kessler dismissed all allegations of ‘Bolshevism’ as ridiculous, even though he indeed had sympathy for the revolutionary councils in Germany and Poland (Lodz) and the Caesarist social democracy of Piłsudski.61
Like many others in his position, Kessler had suffered a nervous breakdown in the course of his service on the eastern front. He was allowed to retire from active service and was given a unique position: to head the department for Cultural Propaganda in secret, in Switzerland. At this point, Kessler could deploy his expertise in the cultural internationalism of the pre-war era to serve a more concrete goal. As he put it:
Now I have finally reached the actual project of my life: to forge Europe together practically at the highest level. Before the war, I had tried it on the much too thin and fragile level of culture; now we can turn to the foundations. May it be a good omen that my appointment occurs on a day when perhaps through Germany’s acceptance, a new era of peace will start.62
Before the war, Kessler’s exposure to debates about national styles and tragic landscapes had been restricted to the realm of aesthetic contemplation. As a result of his wartime position, Kessler obtained a new perspective on these conceptual frontiers, a transformation that was facilitated not least because he was empowered to cross established frontlines. His experience of the German and the Polish post-imperial transformation made these revolutions appear like personal affairs, in which the populations of these states became mere secondary agents on the historical stage. The eastern European horizon became a visual concept that was highly suited for expressing his ambivalent position. Like others in his circle, Kessler recognized his complicity with German military violence in Belgium and in eastern Europe, but stopped short of endorsing the more radical form of the revolutions in Germany and Europe. Instead, he refashioned his long-standing, initially purely aesthetic critique of national chauvinism in Germany’s imperial past into a new, liberal form of internationalism.63
With his transformation from a loyal officer of one of Prussia’s elite army units into a sceptical and self-doubting witness of a European civil war, Kessler’s voice was in the minority, but far from singular amidst a growing sound of disenchanted Europeans. To understand the genealogy of this disenchantment, we need to take into account the psychological effects of war trauma on the self-perception of the military elites in the war. As already discussed, members of elite officer corps were well positioned to understand the theatre of war not least due to having access to privileged forms of experience, such as airplanes. Being cavalier about war, and having a horse in wartime, are related not just linguistically. According to one historian, the cavalry was a ‘cosmopolitan institution, and based upon the same general principles throughout Europe’. As a British historian commissioned by the Russian Tsar Alexander II to write a history of chivalry had put it, the privilege of service with the horse, or chivalry, ‘was without doubt one of the most important causes of the elevation of society from barbarism to civilisation’.64 In most European imperial armies of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, officers generally came from aristocratic families and were educated at corresponding institutions, including the French Cadets schools, which emerged in the seventeenth century; the Cadet schools and the Theresianum academy in Vienna; Lichterfelde in Potsdam; and Sandhurst in Britain.
Historically, the imperial armies remained connected with each other through mutual partnerships. For instance, the European royal guards had a tradition of conferring honorary leadership to monarchs ruling a different state. For instance, the first West Prussian Ulan Guard regiment was formally under the leadership of three Romanoffs between 1859 and 1901, even though the commanding officers were Prussian and not Russian subjects. The regiment was even named ‘Kaiser Alexander III von Russland’, after the Russian tsar. From 1896 to the outbreak of the First World War, Habsburg emperor Franz Josef was the formal commander-in-chief of a British regiment, the 1st King’s Dragoon Guards. The Austrian Radetzky March is still its official song. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, some British regiments consisted entirely of German auxiliaries, including both officers and soldiers.65 The French army had foreign regiments (not to be confused with the Foreign Legion) serving under its banners from the ancien régime to Napoleonic times. Before the revolution, there were Swiss, German (particularly, from Saxony-Anhalt and Nassau), Irish and Scottish, and Wallonian regiments serving under the French king. The practice of renting out mercenaries to foreign armies, which came to be associated mostly with the Swiss mercenaries and with several German principalities, included non-European troops – the Napoleonic army had Circassian and Egyptian (‘Mameluk’) regiments, and subsequent French armies had troops from Senegal.66
Cross-imperial connections among the elites transcended the boundaries of Europe. One of the last cavalry regiments of the British army, which was deployed in the capture of Jerusalem during the First World War, had been co-founded by a former maharajah who had been dispossessed under the Raj as a child. Prince Duleep-Singh had briefly occupied the throne in one of India’s richest states, the Punjab, when an uprising against the British Raj began. The uprising was put down, but with the insurgents, the British army removed the maharajah himself. Installed in Norfolk with a generous pension but no power, the young former maharajah began to live the life of an English gentleman. He assembled, among other things, a collection of portraits of East Anglian dignitaries in Thetford Forest. The Norfolk Yeomanry, which he co-founded, was a volunteer cavalry, which fought for the British war effort at Gallipoli, and later participated in the conquest of Jerusalem before finishing the war on the western front.67
The dismantling of the imperial armies of Austria-Hungary and Germany under the Versailles treaty called into question the special hierarchical privileges of officers, which formed the very heart of the old armies.68 The Habsburg Empire’s officer corps was almost a caste, even though it had gradually become more permeable in the last decades of its existence.69 The same can be said of the other German officer corps, above all, that of Prussia.70 Even though changes in legislation following the reforms of the 1820s meant that new ennoblements created new military nobilities in all these states, access to officer posts had been strictly regulated and limited to specific trusted families. Those who trained with the cadet school were subject to harsh discipline, as described in some of the classical works of Austrian literature in which the cadet features prominently.
Whilst being strictly hierarchical by class, the ranks of the Habsburg imperial army effectively moderated the political impact factor of their subjects’ ethnic and regional identities. Looked at horizontally, the Habsburg army especially was a thoroughly multilingual and, though to a lesser extent, also a multi-ethnic community. By contrast, the German imperial army, which had emerged, like the German empire, in 1870/71, after the Franco-Prussian War, gave Prussia de facto a leading role among the formally equal units of the German princes.71 This difference was crucial for the structure of post-imperial conversion among the post-imperial officers.
In Austria, as Istvan Deák has emphasized, the disappearance of the Emperor as a unifying figure encouraged former career officers to seek a career in the national successor-states of the old empire.72 For officers of the Polish and Czechoslovak legions, there was no contradiction between endorsing revolution in Austria, which gave their nations a long-sought form of sovereignty, and joining anti-Bolshevik military campaigns in the Russian Civil War and elsewhere in eastern Europe. By contrast, for the armies of the German states, the idea of a greater Germany continued to provide a source of aspirations for the future. Moreover, anti-Habsburg German nationalists like Adolf Hitler, who had already served in the Bavarian instead of the Habsburg armies in the war, now saw Germany and not Austria as their primary cadre of reference.73
Former officers had to adjust to an uncertain future in Germany, too: its army was now severely reduced in size after the Versailles peace settlement. But unlike Austria, Germany lost not more than one-seventh of its territory in the war, and thus remained a significant force in Europe. As critics of institutions such as the Prussian cadet training at Lichterfelde have suggested, such institutions produced forms of obedience to authority, which were inimical to a society of equals.74 It has been a long-standing belief particularly among émigrés from Nazi Germany and Austria that radicalization among the disenchanted soldiers and officers had been one of the root causes of Germany’s path to Nazism. The sociologist Norbert Elias provided the most succinct portrait of the army as a key case study for the decline of honour in German society and its descent into dehumanization.75 Yet more recently, historians have highlighted that traumatic war experience and the abolition of privilege also produced less reactionary forms of doubt, and even served as the foundation for pro-republican beliefs.76 A former officer of the Bavarian army, Franz Carl Endres, turned into a sociologist and remarked in the journal Archiv für Sozialwissenschaften und Sozialpolitik that the Prussian army had always been in the service of the Hohenzollern dynasty more than it had served the German people.77 He thought that a future army had to develop other forms of commitment. The left-leaning magazine Die Weltbühne even had a regular column appearing throughout the year 1917, entitled ‘From a field officer’, which supplied ironic remarks on the deconstruction of the officer.78
Adjustment to the post-war world saw the former officers take on a variety of social roles, particularly in the wake of social unrest in Germany during the winter of 1918/19. What is most widely known now is the emergence of paramilitary groups, the so-called Freikorps, which took it upon themselves to fight against revolutionary movements in the German cities. This was not only done out of conviction but sometimes for pecuniary considerations as well. Baron Veltheim, for instance, after his service for the Saxon royal army, claimed that he joined a freecorps unit in Berlin to fight the ‘red’ revolutions there in January 1918 because he was short of money. In this way, the war continued, after only a brief intermission, in the form of a civil war on the streets of Berlin, including ‘Alexanderplatz, the police prefecture, Reichstag, Brandenburger Tor’ and other locations. The fighting parties, which he called the ‘white and the red’, were equally repulsive to him. But he was particularly shocked by the refusal of his comrades to have sympathy for the ‘wishes, feelings, and thoughts’ of the ‘revolutionary workers’. Whenever he tried to prevent what he called ‘excessive violence’ against them, he was suspected of being a ‘spy of the revolution’.79
Another example of a freecorps officer with more conviction for the cause of fighting the revolution was the Prussian officer Ernst von Salomon. He was convicted of murdering the German foreign minister Walther Rathenau and served a prison sentence in the Weimar Republic, during which he wrote a book about the times.80 It is a fictionalized autobiography, in which his authorial self asks, ‘Was it worthwhile to attack these people? No, it was not. We had become superfluous […]. All over! Finis – exeunt omnes. The world wanted time in which to rot comfortably.’81
It is noteworthy that the paramilitary officers of the former armies turned to writing to make sense of their conversion as much as those who became pacifists or critics of military culture. The writer Fritz von Unruh came from a long lineage of Prussian officers. Around the turn of the century, his father had been the commander of Königsberg Castle in East Prussia. In his autobiographical novels and plays, however, he usually adopted the perspective either of plain cadets or of civilians: one of his protagonists is the poet Kaspar Friedrich Uhle.82 Unruh consciously established an intellectual affinity between himself and an earlier Romantic disenchanted with Prussian military traditions, Heinrich von Kleist, whose Prince of Homburg was a modern-day Hamlet who consciously refused to exercise his duty as a Prussian officer. Unruh’s relative Joseph von Unruh (or Józef Unrug, as he was known in Poland) served as an officer of a Prussian regiment in the First World War, but joined the newly formed Polish legion after the war, and in the Nazi era was an agent for the Polish government in exile in Britain.
Other former career officers became so radicalized that they abandoned their aristocratic identity altogether. The most familiar examples of such conversions belong to the history of the Third Reich. Prior to the abolition of the republican constitution in Germany, the SA, one of the paramilitary organizations which was initially in conflict with the Nazi party, had been particularly successful in recruiting former officers. The historian Karl-Dietrich Bracher called them déclassé, yet, at the time when this generation of officers served in the armies, the German aristocracy was no longer a class but merely a social configuration. In terms of class, they had long merged with the bourgeoisie.83 By the time of the Second World War, a number of the old German officers in the post-imperial successor states also gravitated to the Wehrmacht, particularly in eastern Europe.84
Yes, this sort of aristocratic conversion at a time of institutional disorientation was also a phenomenon for the political left in interwar Germany. A particularly spectacular case was that of a Saxon aristocrat who first adopted a fictional alter ego and a pseudonym, and then turned his pseudonym into his new proper name. The officer Arnold Vieth von Golßenau had served in a regiment of the Saxon Royal Guards during the war. Yet his own fictionalized account of the Great War, an interwar bestseller that was translated into English and French, was written from the perspective of an infantry man because, as he later recalled, it was ‘not the officer who had impressed me with his actions on the front, but the nameless soldier’.85 Writing the novel, which quickly became a bestseller rivalling Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front in popularity, he increasingly identified with the protagonist of the experiences he had himself created. He became the protagonist, Ludwig Renn. As he later recalled, he himself ‘lived through this time as an officer, a man with many traditions’.86 After the war, Ludwig Renn, as the former aristocrat now officially called himself, joined the communist party, became a leading member of the republican troops in the Spanish Civil War, emigrated to Mexico with the anti-Nazi Committee for a Free Germany. After the end of the Second World War and the division of Germany, he eventually returned to what was now the GDR to become a professor of anthropology in Jena. This is perhaps the starkest example of the capacity for detachment particularly prevalent among the officer intellectuals of the First World War.87 Yet Renn’s case was far from singular. Other examples of elite officers who became active on the international Left between the wars and in the Second World War included Count Rolf Reventlow, the son of a famous Munich Bohémienne, who was a journalist in the Munich republic and later joined the international brigades in Spain.88
In the light of the scholarship on Germany in the Third Reich, it is easy to overlook that in the interwar period, the German aristocratic officer could impersonate the idea of international reconciliation through the solidarity of elites, as it did in Jean Renoir’s now classic film of 1937, The Grand Illusion. Its title derives from a book by Norman Angell, a British economist, on the futility of war, called The Great Illusion, dating back to 1910, for which the author won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1933.89 The book centres on the futility of the Anglo-German arms race and has no special interest in the military elites, instead focusing on the idea of friendship between societies. But in the film, this abstract notion of friendship is made literal through the link between aristocratic aviators from France, which enables the viewer to draw Angell’s conclusion emotionally. When the aristocrats in the film voice their own feeling of futility, they present a kind of first-person view of imperial decline. But Renoir did not invent this new social role for them. The officers-turned-intellectuals had already prepared it.90
For officers and members of internationally connected aristocratic families, war was not merely a sphere of extreme physical violence but also a field of symbolic interaction. The right of these officers to use horses and later airships in battle, literally and figuratively elevating their perspective, facilitated detachment from the experience of war as a struggle between nations or empires.
The invention of tragic landscapes
In 1923, Kessler was enjoying a picnic in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts. He was invited there to speak of Germany’s place in Europe, and the constitutional changes which had occurred under the republic.91 His hosts, men and women who had served in the First World War either as officers or as nurses, shared their memories of this still recent time. The beauty of nature reminded them of the Carpathian Mountains on the eastern front, while the ‘moral indifference’ of nature itself brought to mind the ‘human atrocities’ they had witnessed. Kessler remarked that there was a great feeling of mutually shared ‘humanity’ in these conversations.92 Prior to the war, Kessler had been trained to believe, with Wilhelm Wundt, that landscapes evoked above all national sentiments and attachments. He now grew convinced that the ‘meaning’ of landscape was either tragic universalism or utter indifference to human identities. There was no ethical link between the shape or the beauty of a landscape and the actions and sentiments of the people taking root in it. For people of Kessler’s circle, it was possible to think of the western front in terms of an affective geography, as a ‘“tragic region” to be turned into a holy site for Europe as a whole and not for any one nation in particular, to draw pilgrimages each year from all parts of the Earth to condemn war and to sanctify peace, to show their devotion in front of this great, wounded cathedral!’93
Publications like Michelin’s Guides to Postwar Europe, published between 1919 and 1922, used images of war ruins on the western front in order to create a new type of mass tourism, which still exists today. As the introduction to the 1919 edition put it, ‘ruins are more impressive when coupled with a knowledge of their origin and destruction’.94 Yet until Franco-German cooperation developed joint commemoration events for the Great War in the 1980s, public memory of these sites remained tinted with national colours.
The idea of perceiving an entire landscape of war as ‘tragic’ required a cosmopolitan perspective. In the 1920s, psychiatrists dealing with cases of war trauma observed that certain cases of what today would be called post-traumatic stress disorder were much more likely to occur among the higher ranks. Some even ventured to suggest, as Robert Graves did, that officers had a ‘more nervous’ time than men, confirming some findings of new approaches to the sociology of war based on statistics from the Franco-Prussian War as well as the Great War.95 He recalled a time when, before the war, he had been visiting his German relatives, the Rankes; at their house, presciently called ‘Begone, anger’, ‘there was a store for corn, apples, and other farm produce; and up here my cousin Wilhelm – later shot down in an air battle by a school-fellow of mine – used to lie for hours picking off mice with an air-gun’.96
Having access to education and technology gave elite participants in the war more devices through which to gain a more distant view of the war process. They could also rekindle their social connections after the war was over. It was easier for those who previously had social experiences in common. In the mid-1930s, Kessler and Graves became neighbours in exile on the Balearic island of Mallorca. Graves’s exile from Britain was voluntary: he spent this time to rewrite his version of the Greek myths. Kessler, by then a refugee from Nazi Germany, wrote his memoirs on the island, which allow us to contextualize in social perspective how former German elites contributed to a new transnational sensibility after the war.
1 William M. Salter, ‘The Russian Revolution’, in International Journal of Ethics, 17:3 (April 1907), 301–316, 303, citing Wolf von Schierbrand, ‘Russia: Her Strength and Her Weakness’ (1904).
2 Arved Freiherr von Taube, ‘Die baltisch-deutsche Führungsschicht und die Loslösung Livlands und Estlands von Russland 1916–1918’, in Von den Baltischen Provinzen zu den Baltischen Staaten. Beiträge zur Entstehungsgeschichte der Republiken Estland und Lettland 1917–1918, ed. Jürgen von Hehn et al. (Marburg/Lahn: Herder-Institut, 1971), 97–217, 105. See his ‘Militärpolitische Berichte’ from 21 December 1917 to 1 February 1918 from Petrograd, in Winfried Baumgart, ‘Die militärpolitischen Berichte des Freiherrn von Keyserlingk aus Petersburg Januar-Februar 1918’, in Vierteljahreshefte für Zeitgeschichte, 15 (1967), 87–104.
3 Heide W. Whelan, Adapting to Modernity: Family, Caste and Capitalism among the Baltic German Nobility (Cologne: Böhlau, 1999); Eduard von Dellingshausen, Die Entstehung, Entwicklung und Aufbauende Tätigkeit der Baltischen Ritterschaften (Langensalza: H. Beyer, 1928).
4 Christopher Clark, The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 (London: Allen Lane, 2013); Paul Fussell, Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989); Paul Fussell, The Great War and Modern Memory (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005); Mary L. Dudziak, War Time: An Idea, Its History, Its Consequences (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).
5 Cf. Jay Winter (ed.), The Cambridge History of the First World War, vol. III Civil Society (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014).
6 I am grateful to Günter Riederer for drawing my attention to this photograph in his introduction to Kessler’s war diaries. In Kessler, Diaries, vol. 6.
7 The phrase belongs to the French sculptor David D’Angers, cited in André Bruel (ed.), Les Carnets inédits de Pierre-Jean David d´Angers, vol. I (1828–37) (Paris: Plon, 1958), 337. On Caspar David Friedrich and his reception among modernists in France and Germany, see Françoise Forster-Hahn, ‘Text and Display: Julius Meier-Graefe, the 1906 White Centennial in Berlin, and the Canon of Modern Art’, in Art History, 38:1 (February 2015), 138–169, and Pierre Wat, Naissance de l’art romantique: peinture et théorie de l’imitation en Allemagne et en Angleterre (Paris: Flammarion, 1999). On Friedrich and landscapes, see Joseph Leo Koerner, Caspar David Friedrich and the Subject of Landscape, 2nd ed. (London: Berghahn, 2009), 143ff.
8 Kessler, 18 February 1915, in Kessler, Diaries, vol. 5.
9 Cf. Yuval Noah Harari, The Ultimate Experience. Battlefield Revelations and the Making of Modern War Culture, 1450–2000 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008).
10 Harry Graf Kessler, ‘Nationalität’, in Die Zukunft, 14:27 (1906), 17–27. Reprinted in Harry Graf Kessler: Künstler und Nationen, Aufsätze und Reden 1899–1933. Gesammelte Schriften in drei Bänden, ed., Cornelia Blasberg and Gerhard Schuster, vol. 2 (Frankfurt am Main: Insel, 1988), 117–130. More on Kessler’s conception of the nation and the influence of Wundt on his ideas in Laird Easton, The Red Count. The Life and Times of Kessler, Harry (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press, 2002), 162–163.
11 On estrangement as a device, see Viktor Shklovsky, Iskusstvo kak priem (1919), in Viktor Shklovsky, O teorii prozy (Moscow: Krug, 1925); on sentimentalism as a literary style and a mode of narrating wartime experience, see James Chandler, An Archaeology of Sympathy. The Sentimental Mode in Literature and Cinema (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2013), and Mikhail Bakhtin, “The Problem of Sentimentalism”, in Bakhtin, Sobranie sochinenii v semi tomakh, ed. S.G. Bocharev, vol. 3 (Moscow: Russkie slovari, 1996), 304–305.
12 Viktor Shklovsky, A Sentimental Journey. Memoirs, 1917–1922, transl. Richard Sheldon (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1970), 233.
13 Norman Davies, Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe [US Subtitle: The Rise and Fall of States and Nations] (London: Penguin, 2012); Larry Wolff, Inventing Eastern Europe. The Map of Civilization on the Mind of the Enlightenment (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 1994).
14 Winston Churchill, The Unknown War (New York: Scribner’s Sons, 1931).
15 New York Times, 22 December 1918.
16 See Natalya Goncharova’s ethnographic depictions of Jews in Southern Russia, in the exhibition catalogue Natal’ia Goncharova. Mezhdu vostokom i zapadom (Moscow: Tret’iakovskaia galereia, 2013).
17 Kessler, 21 October 1915, in Kessler, Diaries, vol. 5.
19 Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius, War Land on the Eastern Front: Culture, National Identity, and German Occupation in World War (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000).
20 Hugh Seton-Watson, Eastern Europe between the Wars: 1918–1941 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1945), xiii.
21 Robert Scotland Liddell, Actions and Reactions in Russia (New York: Dutton & Company, 1918), 16.
22 ‘Die deutschen Truppen in den Karpathen’, in Vossische Zeitung, Nr. 112, Abend-Ausgabe, 2 March 1915, 3. See aslo Charlotte Heymel, Touristen an der Front. Das Kriegserlebnis 1914–1918 als Reiseerfahrung in zeitgenössischen Reiseberichten (Münster: LIT, 2007).
24 Kessler, Diaries, 29 April 1915.
25 On Goncharova’s ethnographic paintings of the Jews, see Cheryl Kramer, ‘Natalia Goncharova. Her Depiction of Jews in Tsarist Russia’, in Woman’s Art Journal, 23:1 (Spring–Summer, 2002), 17–23.
26 Leo Frobenius, Der Völkerzirkus unserer Feinde (Berlin: Eckart, 1916); on Frobenius and embedded ethnography with non-European prisoners of war, see Gerhard Höpp, Muslime in der Mark: als Kriegsgefangene und Internierte In Wünsdorf und Zossen, 1914 – 1924 (Berlin: das Arabische Buch, 1999).
27 Guillaume de Syon, Zeppelin! Germany and the Airship, 1900–1939 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002).
28 Hans-Hasso von Veltheim, Meine handschriftlichen Original-Reiseberichte aus Indien 1935/36, in LHASA, MD, H 173, II Nr. 103, 1–119. See also typescript, Berichtemeiner zweiten Indienreise 1937/38, ULB Halle, 1–832; published versions under Tagebücher aus Asien. Erster Teil. Bombay. Kaljutta. Kashmir. Afghanistan. Die Himalayas. Nepal. Benares. 1935–1939 (Cologne: Greveb, 1951); Der Atem Indiens. Tagebücher aus Asien. Neue Folge. Ceylon und Südindien (Hamburg: Claassen, 1954); Götter und Menschen zwischen Indien und China. Tagebücher aus Asien. Dritter Teil. Birma. Thailand. Kambodscha. Malaya. Java und Bali. Unter Mitwirkung von Maria Stephan (Hamburg: Claassen, 1858). Thanks to John Palatini and Georg Rosentreter for introducing me to these materials, and for their edited collection Alter Adel, neuer Geist. Studien zur Biographie und zum Werk Hans-Hasso von Veltheims (Halle: Mitteldeutscher Verlag, 2012). On the history of the air force, see Viscount Templewood [Sir Samuel Hoare], Empire of the Air. The Advent of the Air Age 1922–29 (London: Collins, 1957).
29 Hans-Hasso von Veltheim, diary entry for 6 August 1916, Kriegstagebücher in LHASA, Mappe I, Lebensdokumente, 22.
30 Reinhart Koselleck, ‘“Space of Experience” and “Horizon of Expectation”: Two Historical Categories’, in Koselleck, Futures Past. On the Semantics of Historical Time, transl. Keith Tribe (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004), 255–277.
31 Kessler, 24 March 1918, in Kessler, Diaries, vol. 6.
32 Laird Easton, The Red Count, 1–6.
33 Kessler, 30 March 1925, in Kessler, Diaries, vol. 8.
35 Kessler, Diaries, 5 December 1931. William Shakespeare, The Tragedie of Hamlet Prince of Denmarke, ed. J. Dover Wilson, ill. Edward Gordon Craig and Eric Gill, printed by Harry Graf Kessler (Weimar: Cranachpresse, 1930).
36 On Kessler’s press in the context of interwar internationalism, see Dina Gusejnova, ‘Die russophile Fronde. Mit Kessler zur bibliographischen Internationale’, in Roland Kamzelak (ed.), Kessler, der Osten und die Literatur (Münster: Mentis, 2015), 41–67.
37 Karl Kraus, ‘Notizen: Was es in Berlin noch gibt’, in Die Fackel, xxix (9 October 1917), 89. Kraus referred to Harry Kessler (ed.), Virgil, Eclogae & Georgica, Latine et Germanice. Volumen prius: Eclogae (Vimariae: Impressit H. Comes de Kessler in aedibus suis Cranachpresse, 1914); Wieland Herzfelde, Sulamith (Berlin: Barger, 1917), Salomo and Eric Gill, Das Hohe Lied: [Auf d. Handpressen d. Cranachpresse in 3 Farben gedr.] (Leipzig: Insel-Verl., 1931).
38 Brinks, Das Buch als Kunstwerk: die Cranach Presse des Grafen Harry Kessler (Laubach: Triton Verlag, 2003).
39 Henry van de Velde and Finanzamt Weimar, 1922, AZ RKW 27 A, in Bundesarchiv, R 32/90, 1920–27.
40 For details of this publication, see Felix Brusberg and Sabine Carbon (eds.), Krieg und Zusammenbruch von 1914–18. Aus den Feldpostbriefen von Harry Graf Kessler (Berlin: Edition K., 2014). I thank Sabine Carbon and the Kessler-Gesellschaft for this image.
41 Kessler, 18 November 1917, in Kessler, Diaries, vol. 6.
42 Keyserling, ‘On the Meaning of the War’, The Hibbert Journal, 3 April 1915, 533–546; ‘Graf Hermann Keyserling als Urheber und Verbreiter der Kriegsschuldlüge entlarvt!’, Der Hammer, Leipzig, September 1932, 725–726. HKN, folder ‘Pressehetze’, for example article ‘Die Wahrheit über den Grafen Keyserling’ by Keyserling’s former publisher Otto Reichl, 18 December 1933.
43 HKN, Pressehetze 1933ff., ‘n eigener Sache’ vom Grafen Hermann Keyserling’, notice to be circulated to various newspapers. Precise date unknown.
44 Hermann Keyserling, ‘A Philosopher’s View of the War’, The Hibbert Journal, 3 April 1915. See HKN, ‘Pressehetze’, for example article ‘Die Wahrheit über den Grafen Keyserling’ by Keyserling´s former publisher Otto Reichl, 18 December 1933, newspaper unknown but article contains a stamp from the German embassy, ‘Deutsche Botschaft, eingeg. 18 Dec 1933’. See also note ‘Graf Hermann Keyserling als Urheber und Verbreiter der Kriegsschuldlüge entlarvt!’ Der Hammer, Nr- 725–726, Leipzig, September 1932.
45 Georg Simmel, Briefe 1912–18, ed. Klaus Christian Köhnke, in Gesamtausgabe, 23 vols., vol. 23 (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 2005), Simmel to Keyserling, 18 May 1918.
48 Keyserling, Europa, 150.
49 Harry Graf Kessler, ‘Aus den Anfängen der Novemberrevolution. Pilsudskis Befreiung’, Frankfurter Zeitung, 7 October 1928 (Zweites Morgenblatt), 1–2; and Harry Graf Kessler, ‘Pilsudski. Eine Erinnerung’, in Die Neue Rundschau, 46 (Berlin, 1935), 605–612.
50 Kessler, Diaries, 18 October 1918.
51 Kessler, Diaries, 14 November 1918 and 28 December 1918.
52 On the railway and globalization, see Jürgen Osterhammel and Niels P. Petersson, Globalization: A Short History, transl. Dona Geyer (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012), 85–86.
53 The passage was described by the Swiss communist Fritz Platten, Die Reise Lenins durch Deutschland im plombierten Wagen (Berlin: Neuer Deutscher Verlag, 1924), but later popularized by Stefan Zweig in his miniature ‘The sealed train’ (1927), in Stefan Zweig, Decisive Moments in History. Twelve Historical Miniatures, trans. by Lowell A. Bangerter (Riverside: Ariadne Press, 1999).
54 Kessler, Diaries, 19 November 1918. Kessler, ‘Aus den Anfängen der Novemberrevolution. Pilsudskis Befreiung’, 1–2, Kessler, ‘Pilsudski. Eine Erinnerung’ 605–612; Rom Landau, Pilsudski and Poland (New York: Dial Press, 1929). ‘De breuk tuschen Polen en Deutschland’, Het Centrum, 19 December 1918.
55 Kessler, Diaries, 19 November 1918.
56 Cf. Hoover Institution Archives, Poland Ambasada Papers (correspondence with French government from the 1920s).
58 ‘Ousted Envoy Tells of Warsaw Mobs’, New York Times, 22 December 1918.
59 Kessler‘s emphasis. Diaries, 21 November 1918.
61 Julie Fedor, Russia and the Cult of State Security: The Chekist Tradition, from Lenin to Putin (London: Routledge, 2013).
62 Kessler, 29 August 1924, in Kessler, Diaries, vol. 8.
63 Thus Kessler republished, with few changes, his old essay on Nationality in the new context of the pacifist journal Die weißen Blätter. Harry Graf Kessler, ‘Nationalität’, in Die Weißen Blätter. Eine Monatsschrift, 6:12 (1919), 531–546.
64 Lieut.-Col. George T. Denison, A History of Cavalry from the Earliest Times. With Lessons for the Future (London: Macmillan, 1877), 116, 114.
65 Stephen Conway, The British Isles and the War of American Independence (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 30.
66 Eugène Fieffé, Histoire des Troupes étrangères au service de France depuis leur origine jusq´à nos jours et de tous les régiments levés dans les pays conquis sous la première république et l´empire, 2 vols. (Paris: Librairie militaire, 1854).
67 Prince Frederick Victor Duleep-Singh. See his collection of East Anglia portraits in E. Farrer (ed.), Portraits in Norfolk Houses, 2 vols. (Norwich: Jarrold & Sons, 1929). On Singh, see also Obituary in The Times, 16 August 1926. On the Norfolk Yeomanry, see Samuel Hoare, The Fourth Seal and the End of a Russian Chapter (London: Heinemann, 1930). On Jerusalem and the dreams of a new chivalry, see G.K. Chesterton, The New Jerusalem (New York: George Doran, 1921). On the complex evolution of military identities under the British Raj, see Chris Bayly and Tim Harper, Forgotten Armies: Britain’s Asian Empire and the War with Japan (London: Penguin, 2004), and Gajendra Singh, The Testimonies of Indian Soldiers and the Two World Wars (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014).
68 For a comparative analysis of the social impact of the war on Germany and Austria-Hungary, see Alexander Watson, Ring of Steel: Germany and Austria-Hungary at War, 1914–1918 (London: Penguin, 2015).
69 István Deák, Beyond Nationalism. A Social and Political History of the Habsburg Officer Corps, 1848–1918 (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1990).
70 Wencke Meteling, ‘Adel im preussisch-deutschen Weltkriegsoffizierkorps’, in Aristokratismus und Moderne. Adel als politisches und kulturelles Konzept, 1890–1945, ed. Eckart Conze et al. (Weimar, Cologne and Vienna: Boehlau, 2013), 215–239.
71 Cf. Hermann Cron, Die Organisation des deutschen Heeres im Weltkriege (Berlin: Mittler & Sohn, 1923).
72 Istvan Deák, ‘The Habsburg Empire’, in Karen Barkey and Mark von Hagen (eds.), After Empire: Multiethnic Societies and Nation-Building: The Soviet Union and the Russian, Ottoman and Habsburg Empires (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1997), 129–141,134–135.
73 On Hitler as a case study of post-war conversion, see Thomas Weber, Hitler’s First War: Adolf Hitler, the Men of the List Regiment, and the First World War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011).
74 Erich Fromm, Max Horkheimer, and Ludwig Marcuse (eds.), Studien über Autorität und Familie (Paris: Alcan, 1936).
75 Norbert Elias, Studien über die Deutschen. Machtkämpfe und Habitusentwicklung im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert (Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp, 1992).
76 Benjamin Ziemann, Contested Commemorations: Republican War Veterans and Weimar Political Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009). For a critique of Elias in the light of the First World War, see Mark Hewitson, ‘Violence and Civilization. Transgression in Modern Wars’, in Mary Fulbrook (ed.), Un-Civilizing Processes?: Excess and Transgression in German Society and Culture: Perspectives Debating with Norbert Elias (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2007), 117–157.
77 Franz Carl Endres, ‘Soziologische Struktur und ihr entsprechende Ideologien des deutschen Offizierkorps vor dem Weltkriege’, in Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik, 58:1 (1927), 282–319.
78 Cf. Bernhard von Bülow and Graf Max Montgelas (eds.), Kommentar zu den Deutschen Dokumenten zum Kriegsausbruch, 5 vols. (Berlin: Deutsche Verlagsgesellschaft für Politik und Geschichte, 1919).
79 Veltheim, postscript to his war diary (1921–32) on the events of January 1918, with a quotation from a letter to his wife of 25 January 1919. In LHASA, Mappe I, Kriegstagebuch.
80 Ernst von Salomon, Die Geächteten (Berlin: Rowohlt, 1931); see also ibid., Der Fragebogen (Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1951).
81 Ernst von Salomon, The Outlaws (London: Arktos, 2013), 301.
82 Fritz Unruh, Die Offiziere (Berlin: Reiss, 1911).
83 For a classic analysis of this process, see Karl-Dietrich Bracher, Wolfgang Sauer, and Gerhard Schulz, Die nationalsozialistische Machtergreifung. Studien zur Errichtung des totalitären Herrschaftssystems in Deutschland, 2nd ed. (Wiesbaden: Springer, 1962), 829–855.
84 Isvtan Deák, ‘The Habsburg Empire’, 135. Karina Urbach, Go-Betweens for Hitler (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015). On the cooperation of the old elites in the colonization of the East, see Shelley Baranowski, Nazi Empire. German Colonialism and Imperialism from Bismarck to Hitler (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011).
85 Ludwig Renn, Krieg (Frankfurt: Societätsverlag, 1929), 519–20.
86 Ibid., 520.
88 For details on Rolf Reventlow, see the Rolf Reventlow papers at the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Bonn. For Reventlow’s role in the Spanish Civil War, see Arthur Koestler, Spanish Testament (London: Gollancz, 1937), 183–184.
89 Norman Angell, The Great Illusion (London: William Heinemann, 1910).
90 Jean Renoir, La Grande Illusion (1937). I am grateful to Eckart Conze for organizing the screening of this film in the context of a conference on aristocracy and modernity in Marburg in September 2009.
91 Cf. the lectures in Williams Town, Massachusetts, were published almost immediately, as Count Harry Kessler, Germany and Europe (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1923).
92 Easton, Der rote Graf, 407. Kessler to Schubert, 14 August 1923. PA Dept III USA vols. 4 and 5.
94 Michelin Guide to the Battlefields of the World War (Milltown, N.J.: Michelin, 1919), 7.
95 General Nikolai Golovin, Nauka o voine: o sotsiologicheskom izuchenii voiny (Paris: Signal, 1938), with thanks to Pitirim Sorokin of the Harvard Committee for Research in the Social Sciences. On the greater danger of war for officers than soldiers based on statistics from the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/71, see page 15ff; Ardant du Pie, Etudes sur le combat (Paris: Hachette et Dumaine, 1880); Hans Delbrück, Geschichte der Kriegskunst im Rahmen der politischen Geschichte (Berlin: Georg Stielke, 1922–27); Jean Norton Cru, Essai d’analyse et de critique des souvenirs des combattants édités en français de 1915 à 1928 (Paris: Ed. Etincelles, 1929); and materials from the congress ‘Sociologie de la guerre et de la paix’, in Les annals de l’ Institut International de Sociologie, xvi, ed. Marcel Giard (Paris, 1932), based on a conference in Geneva in 1930. On elites and the sociology of war, see Vilfredo Pareto, The Mind and Society, transl. Andrew Bongiorno and Arthur Livingston, 2 vols. (New York: Harcourt and Brace, 1935). On psychiatric treatment of shellshock and war neuroses in Austria-Hungary, see the case of von Mattanovich and others in Hans-Georg Hofer, Nervenschwäche und Krieg. Modernitätskritik und Krisenbewältigung in der österreichischen Psychiatrie (1880–1920) (Cologne, Vienna, Weimar: Böhlau, 2004), 366ff.; on nervousness and officers, see John T. MacCurdy, War Neuroses (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1918), 123; on war shock, see M.D. Eder, War-Shock. The Psycho-Neuroses in War Psychology and Treatment (London: Heinemann, 1917); see also Ernst Hanisch, Männlichkeiten. Eine andere Geschichte des 20. Jahrhunderts (Vienna, Cologne and Weimar: Böhlau, 2005); see also studies by the Psychoanalytic association, S. Ferenczi, Karl Abraham, Ernst Simmel, and Ernest Jones, with an introduction by Sigmund Freud, Psychoanalysis and War Neuroses (London, Vienna and New York: The International Psycho-Analytical Press, 1921).
96 Robert Graves, Goodbye to All That (London: Jonathan Cape, 1929) (London: Penguin, 1957).