Prologue Scene 3


An office in the department of the Imperial Head of Protocol. Nepallek[1], a privy counsellor, at a desk.  He talks on the phone, while at the same time bowing low before it, almost crawling into it.[2]

NEPALLEK:   Funeral third class – understood Your Excellency[3] – Your Excellency need not be concerned – Prince Montenuovo, in the Emperor’s words, immediately seized the initiative[4] – Pardon, Excellency, what’s that? Line’s bad again today – Damn it, madam, you’re interrupting an imperial conversation, scandalous! – Excuse me, Excellency, a crossed line – yes – yes – yes – here to serve – concerned, yes – but of course – oh, put off – all of them – naturally – His Highness immediately seized the initiative – obviously – His Highness would be delighted – indeed, all in accordance with Prince Montenuovo’s wishes – Yes, Your Excellency can rest assured – no, no other monarchs – not even their families – or distant relations – of course not – What’s that? –  no, they all wanted to come – but nobody will – a Russian grand duke was nearly on his way, but fortunately we were able to stop him in time – well, if it was up to me the Russians would have some explaining to do – as long as it doesn’t end up in a war, quite – what’s that? Disconnected again, confound it, disgraceful! – Ah, you’re back, yes, England as well – no, no one – not even the palace cat – ambassadors and the like, yes – well, a selection anyway, where we can’t really say no – but we’ll make sure – oh, well screened, very well – only out of expediency – all due to consideration of limitations of space, etc. – we’re just using the little chapel, my God, we had fun with that one – The wording? Here.  (Pulls a piece of paper from his pocket.) ‘Restrictions on the delegations of overseas royal and military representatives in consideration of space limitations’ – Sorry? Of course, obviously that will be the bitterest disappointment, no attendance by the military, official or otherwise – Pardon, Excellency? In Belgrade? Well, the Serbs will find it curious – too true, just let them try getting cheeky with us on that front –  or maybe we won’t object at all, will we, Your Excellency? – Yes! – Very good, Excellency, splendid, I must tell the prince that one, it will have His Highness rolling about – anyway, we’d have so much trouble with the benediction wouldn’t we,  if all the Orthodox[5] turned up – as for the Bohemian nobility, I have to say those gentlemen were rather pushy – all chums and relations of hers of course[6] – and how did we reply? – His Highness immediately seized the initiative. Quite simply, apart from the very highest courtiers and officials, admission only for the children’s guardian – What? The children themselves? No, Prince Montenuovo is against them coming, on account of the blubbering – What? Ladies and gentlemen will accompany on foot – that’s very disagreeable for His Highness, like some sort of demonstration – of the unemployed, oh very good! I must tell His Highness that one, it will have him rolling – What’s that Your Excellency? Couldn’t give a sausage? Exactly! Not even a slice of salami! – But of course, no one can complain – the correct formalities will be complied with – there is just an overwhelming need for privacy – oh, absolutely right, they can fume all they want – that’s the reality – the heir to the throne does only warrant a third-class funeral, no frills – and no reason to introduce anything extraneous – apropos of which Your Excellency won’t have heard about the outrageous demand from the heir’s office yet? – That after the Spanish ceremonial[7] we not only deliver the coffins to the Westbahn Station[8], we organize the burial in Artstetten[9] too – yes, quite unprecedented – The Capuchin Crypt[10] is the full extent of our responsibility and that’s the end of it! – Naturally Prince Montenuovo immediately seized the initiative and told them to be grateful we’re bringing the body as far as the station. Anything else is the business of the Municipal Funeral Corporation – or the Society for Eternal Life, quite right – mere malice on their part – just as the deceased would have liked it – Out of piety, very good! I must tell His Highness, it’ll have him rolling in the – no, we’ll do something quite informal afterwards, a little banquet with an intimate group of friends – Employ any of his people? Not a single one, the whole lot of them should be sacked – a monstrously unpleasant task, but – of course, if it had been down to me, I was against bringing the Chotek woman’s body on the same train at all – as I always say in such cases, if you hadn’t climbed up, you wouldn’t have fallen down – the luck of the draw – but out of His Highness’s goodness of heart – you know how it is Excellency, His Highness interceded, and we could do nothing –  at least we’ll have the ability to regulate etiquette and ensure her coffin is positioned several steps lower than his –  It isn’t going to be pleasant tomorrow at the Südbahn Station[11] – but there’ll be no crowds at least – Pardon? Very good, not like a Sunday trip to Atzgersdorf[12], I must tell His Highness that one, His Highness will be – What’s that? The newspapers? As instructed they won’t make a big fuss. Watchword: no pomp, only quiet grief, or whatever we care to call it here – What’s that Your Excellency? So quiet, you could hear – splendid, I must tell His Highness that one, His Highness will be – Pardon? Yes, tickled pink the Cabinet Office is as deeply shocked as the Privy Counsellors’ Department – His Highness will be rolling about at that one – well, a number of entertainment establishments have inquired about cancelling shows. Answer: no court mourning has been ordered and so the matter is left to the discretion of individual managements – good, no? – But what they do is up to them; Wolf’s Music Hall[13] is no more obliged to burst into tears than we are. And Venice in Vienna[14], this will interest Your Excellency, has had the good sense not even to ask, and has quietly washed its hands of the whole day. Good God, the ordinary man needs a little bit of fun in these hard times, he needs to earn a bit of cash too – live and let live, obviously – Of course it’s not just us, there’s the whole empire – the entire empire – quite right, we all have the same feelings, it’s so true, people are not going to be suffocated – Pardon? Damn, what now – another glitch – ah, right, it’s true though, everyone wants some fun in life – that’s it, one day even the slave-driver kicks the bucket – so live and let live – people like to see smiling faces or they get very down in the dumps – That’s very true, if you don’t know how to salute you don’t belong on the podium – in that respect at least we won’t have to worry about her in the future, thank God – sorry? What’s happening to the other ‘Highness’[15], the Archduke’s former future Supreme Head of Protocol! The favourite has faded, peacefully departed with his Lord (God rest his soul and the Devil take him), but it’s an unusual kind of bereavement, well, he’s the only one bowed down with grief – no, I doubt he will be honoring us with his presence – What? The people who were with him in Sarajevo? Harrach?[16] Yes, perhaps he should go. He did ‘protect him with his own body’ – oh, don’t! Didn’t they just come back so full of their own importance – Morsey[17] took a swing at a policeman, simply because he didn’t arrest the assassin, but the officer gave as good as he got, no nonsense, ‘Lieutenant, mind your own business!’ – The police in Sarajevo carried out their duty that’s all, no more, no less – and the gendarmerie – how many were there?  Even then Prince Montenuovo had already seized the initiative, with Tisza[18], who really had every possible measure put in place. Six men for the heir’s personal protection, more than enough! – quite, a reasonable balance after the two hundred he had for his castle at Konopischt[19], to ensure Joe Public Esquire didn’t set foot in his park – yes, the Archduke was all too happy to indulge in waste like that there Sorry? I’m sure they are already spitting blood in the Foreign Office! Well, it’s the best possible evidence against Serbia, it speaks for itself – finally, finally – I’m curious how long they’ll really need to spend investigating that nest of vipers – well, if six police officers was enough for Sarajevo, we just might need a few more to sort out Belgrade! A dung heap, absolutely – of course, we’re blameless as little lambs – oh yes, I gather it is true about Franz Ferdinand’s presentiments of death, but we screwed his courage to the sticking place, after all an officer fears nothing! – Indeed, in God’s hands all his life, to the very last – alas, there was no way to prevent it, I see all that, I understand all that, but now it’s happened it must be punished! – certainly, when one comes to one’s senses after such a tragic event, yes, there are positive points too, all things considered – a settling of accounts, very true – Oh yes, Conrad[20] has got to go now – and very satisfying too! All that has to be a real source of gratification, even a child can see it, and none of it a bad thing either – yes, a point of honour to be expunged – oh, we’ll make it happen – of course – What? Well, surely the Germans will hoick us out of any mess we get ourselves into – I mean the thing is we are all for peace, but not peace at any price – ah, no, no, Excellency, there’s no question of a holiday for me, whatever next – that’s how it is unfortunately, it seems I am to be spared nothing[21] – oh, don’t concern yourself – I will pass that on to his Highness, of course – my most deferential thanks, your most humble servant, Your Excellency!

[1] Wilhelm Friedrich von Nepallek (1862-1924), head of protocol at the Imperial Court.

[2] Nepallek’s one-sided telephone conversation is spiteful, scurrilous, malicious, arrogant, contemptuous, fawning, gossip-mongering, complacent and, not least, incoherent. Translation can only give a flavour, with incoherence weighing more heavily than the detail on which Kraus builds it, which would have been reasonably accessible to Kraus’s audience. Even Edward Timms admits that at times translation here may owe more to ‘instinct and guesswork’ than usual, with his instincts far better informed than mine. Many half-expressed references cannot be realised in English; many are probably ‘irretrievable’ even in German. 

[3] Nepallek is on the phone to Karl von Heinhold-Udyuski (1862-1943), Minister of the Interior. The ‘Highness’ referred to throughout is Prince Montenuovo, Nepallek’s immediate superior. Kraus uses no names; for his audience it would have been clear who both were, and the absence of names is somehow a reflection of Nepallek’s cringeing (‘we all know who we’re talking about’) obsequiousness; it is only necessary to recognise the self-serving ‘style’ of the court; however, some names have been added sparingly to allow for some clarity now.

[4] ‘Immediately seize the initiative’, a catchphrase of Emperor Franz-Josef’s; who never did!

[5] The Serbs were mainly Orthodox while Austria was overwhelmingly Roman Catholic.

[6] Sophie Duchess of Hohenberg (1868-1914), formerly Sophie Maria Josephine Albina Gräfin Chotek von Chotkow und Wognin, was Franz Ferdinand’s morganatic wife (their offspring had no claim to the imperial throne). She was from a prominent Bohemian aristocratic family.

[7] The Habsburgs’ ancient connections with Spain had left the arcane and convoluted Spanish Court Ceremonial, Spanisches Hofzeremoniell, as the basis of all etiquette in the Imperial Court.

[8] Vienna’s terminus for trains from the west. Bahn is ‘station’, the duplication seems right.

[9] Arstetten, castle close to the Danube in Lower Austria; came into Franz Ferdinand’s possession in 1889; he had the castle extensively rebuilt and is buried there with his wife.

[10] The Capuchin Crypt; part of a monastery built to house the Habsburg imperial burial vault, close to the Hofburg Palace in Vienna. Franz Ferdinand was entitled to burial there; his wife’s morganatic status meant she was not. However, he had already chosen to be buried with her.

[11] Vienna’s railway terminus for trains from the south.

[12] A popular day trip for the Viennese on Sundays and public holidays.

[13] Wolf in Gersthof, a mix of bar, music hall, dance hall; in Gersthof, a Viennese suburb.

[14] As before, the Prater amusement park and associated entertainments.

[15] Prince Carl Ernst Bronn von Weikersheim, a favourite of Franz Ferdinand’s; see note in P:8.

[16] Franz von Harrach, count (1870-1937), chamberlain of Franz Ferdinand’s household.

[17] Franz von Morsey, baron (1854-1926), chamberlain to Sophie von Hohenberg.

[18] Istvan Tisza de Bostenjö et Szeged (1861-1918), sometime Hungarian Prime Minister, disliked by Franz Ferdinand; influential advisor to Emperor Franz Josef during the war.

[19] Konopischt Castle, now in the Czech Republic, close to Prague, owned by Franz Ferdinand.

[20] Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf, count (1853-1925), soldier, chief of the general staff, close to Franz Ferdinand’s ideas for change; determined advocate of pre-emptive war against Serbia.

[21] ‘So I am to be spared nothing in this world’; words of Franz Josef on learning his estranged wife, Elisabeth, had been murdered by an anarchist in Geneva in 1898. His son Rudolf, the heir to the throne had committed suicide with his lover, Marie Vetsera, at Mayerling in 1889.