The King of Italy has declared war on me - Proclamation by Emperor Franz Joseph on 23 May 1915
This document is a proclamation from Emperor Franz Joseph I to the people of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In April 1915, Italy withdrew from the Triple Alliance of Austria-Hungary, Germany and Italy. In addition, Italy claimed dominion over the Italian-speaking areas of Austria-Hungary, but its demands were not fulfilled. And so Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary.
In ‘To my people! - The King of Italy has declared war on me’ Emperor Franz Joseph I expresses his disappointment at Italy’s ‘treachery’ after a ‘coalition of more than thirty years’. Italy had left Austria-Hungary ‘in the hour of need’, although Austria-Hungary had always fulfilled its ‘treaty obligations’ and supported Italy. Emperor Franz Joseph I revives the memories of battles such as Novarra, Mortara, Custozza and Lissa, and mentions popular commanders such as Radetzky, Archduke Albrecht and Tegethoff to encourage and motivate his troops. He claims that the ‘borders of the monarchy [will be] successfully defended’ and expresses his confidence in his troops, whose leaders and people deserve his ‘most heartfelt fatherly thanks’.
TranscriptHis Imperial and Royal Apostolic Majesty has most graciously deigned to issue the following handwritten letter:
Dear Count Stürgkh!
I call on you to bring this proclamation to my people to the attention of the general public.
Vienna, 23 May 1915
Franz Joseph m.p.
To my people!
The King of Italy has declared war on me.
A breach of trust, the like of which as not been seen before, has been committed by the Kingdom of Italy against both of its allies. After an alliance of more than thirty years, during which she was able to increase her territorial possession and develop and blossom beyond her imagination, Italy has deserted us in our hour of need and has with flying colours defected to the enemy camp.
We have not threatened Italy, we have not damaged her reputation, we have not infringed her honour and her interests; we have always faithfully fulfilled our commitments as an ally and given her our protection in the field of battle.
We have done more than this: When Italy cast her covetous eye over our borders, we were, in order to maintain the allied relationship and peace, resigned to large and harmful losses, losses that affected our patriotic heart particularly deeply. But Italy's covetousness and opportunism could not be allayed and so fate took its course.
My armies were triumphant in withstanding the might of the enemy in the North during ten months of extreme struggle, loyal brothers-in-arms with the army of my noble ally.
The new, treacherous enemy in the South is not a new opponent to them.
The great memories of Novara, Mortara, Custozza and Lissa, which formed the pride of my youth, and the spirit of Radetzky, Archduke Albrecht and Tegethoff, which lives on in my land and sea forces, give me assurance that we will also successfully defend the borders of the monarchy against the South. I greet my battle-hardened, tried and tested troops, I trust in them and in their leader! I trust in my people, for whose unprecedented self-sacrifice I give my deepest paternal thanks.
I ask the Almighty to bless our flag and commend our righteous actions to His gracious care and keeping.
Vienna, 23 May 1915
Franz Joseph m.p.
- Article by:
- David Stevenson
- Origins, outbreak and conclusions
How did World War One break out? Professor David Stevenson closely examines the three stages that led to war being declared between Austria-Hungary, Serbia, Germany, Russia, France, and Britain.