Gavrilo Princeps and updates about our films

moleskin20060 princeps

This weekend, we are working on three projects. I am trying to get the second part of the film about the 6 gay texts in the Bible finished and there are so many details that are left -simply in the presentation. Secondly, I am storyboarding the first of our polyglot Lear songs. So far, we have recorded sequences from two of these songs- the first is in english and Turkish (there was a young person of Smyrna) and the second is in English and Greek (there was an old man of Corfu).


The music is by David Watson and the Greek sequence is being recorded later this week in Athens in a studio I know well from my days recording englsh language cassettes for “New Editions” and Longman or Macmillan. I recorded the english line a few weeks ago in Oxford. Anyway, the idea is that these songs will be thoroughly theatrical, looking and feeling like something out of the 19th Century. So this brings me to the third thing we are working on this weekend which is the backdrop to the Turkish Lear film. This is an image of the centre of modern Izmir, which was also used in Posters of the 1950s, one of which I am copying here


…So while I am messing around with animation in one office, Necati is slaving away drawing the background in the other office. Later, we have some sketches of Leamington Spa to finish for “Clements and Church”.

Gavrilo Princeps was the boy who assassinated the heir to the Austrian throne, the Archduke Ferdinand in 1914 and this was the event that catapulted us into the first world war, courtesy of some bizarre activity by our then Foreign Secretary Edward Grey, who has the record for holding the office for 11 years from 1905 to 1916. Today is the anniversary of that event. Gavrilo Princeps was the son of a local postman,  a Serbian nationalist. I wonder what his name actually means: the word γαύρος in Greek is the word for a little fish or anchovy. (Incidentally, in writing the Greek word, I mistyped and hit an “N” instead of a “rho”. That would have come much closer to a word that certainly does not mean “fish” in Russian. I think it is one of the exclamations made at the beginning of “From Russia with Love.”) The general feeling one hundred years ago was that Princeps’ action was fairly unimportant, unless of course, one happened to be the Archduke Ferdinand or his wife Sophia, the Duchess of Hohenberg, then of course it was immediately a matter of life and death.

Princeps himself had had a troubled life. He wanted to join the circus but was considered too weak to do any serious stunts and also apparently he looked improbably gay in a leotard. There were apparently 6 (or 7) conspirators, linked to the “Black Hand” (led by Dragutin Dimitrijevic) and the assassination attempts went on for about an hour. Between them, the conspirators had six bombs and 4 Browning pistols. The first conspirator was the son of a minor Bosnian noble, called Mohammed Mehmedbasic and when it came to the point, he lost his nerve because a policeman was standing next to him. He was later arrested in Montenegro where he was overheard bragging about his part in the conspiracy. Nedeljko Cabrinovic threw a hand grenade at the open-topped car at 10.15 but the driver, Leopold Loyka, accelerated and the bomb actually exploded under another car that was following the Royals wounding Eric Von Merizzi and Count Alexander as well as about 20 spectators. Cabrinovic’s plan was to bomb the car and then vault over the railings of the bridge swallowing a vial of Cyanide as he did so. Cabrinovic’s poison was useless and his attempted suicide failed. He was captured by police.

The Duchess was slightly hurt by a bit of shrapnel which had cut her neck. She was stoic, though as was her husband. They went on to a reception at the Town hall and then to the hospital to visit his wounded aides, but on the way the driver took a wrong turn, passed Moritz Schilller’s cafe where Princeps was hiding. The car got into further difficulties, stalled and Princeps fired at a distance of five feet, hitting the Archduke in the neck and his wife in her lower right abdomen. She was pregnant. The second bullet also hit the Archduke in the chest. His wife was able to say “What has happened to you?” before apparently fainting. She had in fact died. He said, “Sophia, don’t die. Stay alive for the children.”  Count Von Harrach owned the Gräf & Stif car and was acting as the couple’s bodyguard; he was standing on the running board of the car as Princeps fired. He supported the Archduke’s head and asked if he was in pain. “It’s nothing,” said Ferdinand repeatedly. He died at 11am, having been carried with his dead wife to his suite in the Hotel Konak, exactly 1 hour after arriving by train in Sarajevo.

Oddly, the Archduke might have made a good Emperor. He rejected alot of his uncle’s fuddy-duddy approaches to the empire and wanted to make concessions to the slavs. The emperor Franz Josef disliked his nephew intensely, not least because he disapproved of his wife, Sophia who was not descended from Imperial blood. The archduke must have been a bit dim or received idiotic advice because the visit to Sarajevo, urged repeatedly by the Bosnian Governor-general, Oscar Potiorek, was made at a time of Serbian tension and specifically on 28th June, St Vitus day, a Serbian National holiday that commemorates the defeat of Serbia by the Ottomans in the battle of Kosovo in 1389. During the battle, the leaders of both armies, the Suktan Murad I and Prince Lazar who led the Serbs, both died. To make matters worse for the visiting Royals, this was their 14th Wedding anniversary.

Because of the Duchess’s lowly birth and the appalling pomposity of the Emperor, her coffin was placed on a lower bier to her husband’s at the funeral service in Vienna. More astonishingly, her children were denied access to the funeral because they were not considered Royal enough to share the Church with the emperor and his family. Ferdinand had anticipated some of this and had created two marble tombs under their house so they could at least be buried together. I suppose he did not anticipate that they would be used so soon.

Riots broke out in Sarajevo in the days that followed the assassination.

arrest of princeps

here is a photo I was sent that I understand shows Princeps’ arrest

The fate of Princeps is barely recorded in History books, but makes poignant reading. He was too young to be condemned to death so was given a 20 year prison sentence instead. A third conspirator, Danilo Ilic, was old enough to be executed a year later. The fate of two  conspirators is bizarre: Vaso Čubrilović was 17 and not particularly rebellious at all; the worst thing he had done to date was to walk out of school while the Hapsburg National Anthem was playing. I gather he claimed that he was worried any attack on the Duke might hurt the Duchess so on a point of chivalrous honour, he chickened out. After a 16 year prison sentence, he became a history teacher. Cvjetko Popović claimed to have weak eyesight and did not see the car at all. He served a prison term and then became a museum curator. I do not know what happened to Trifko Grabež (was he executed?). Once a year, the various conspirators were put into solitary confinement to commemorate the day of the assassination, 28th June. Princeps, in particular was singled out for brutal treatment. His arrest was apparently very nasty. He was kept in appalling conditions, and attempted suicide unsuccessfully with the same drugs given to Cabrinovic that were so out of date they simply made him vomit; later, he contracted TB, had his right arm amputated and died in the early part of 1918. He was buried in an unmarked grave which was subsequently identified and his remains were placed in a chapel built to commemorate Serbian heroes. His home which was destroyed during the War was rebuilt and became the Museum of Yugoslavia in Sarajevo until it was destroyed again in 1941 when the Croatians/ Germans invaded Sarajevo. It was rebuilt in 1944 by Tito and became a museum again until, the 1990s when it was destroyed for a third time.

Perhaps the most distressing aspect of the various activities today in Sarajevo is the erection of a statue of Princeps. Whether he is seen as a freedom fighter or as a terrorist is perhaps an academic point now, but the fact remains that he ignited one of the worst wars ever. I am not sure this is worthy of a bronze statue. I was sent a photo that shows Bosnian Serbs kissing and touching the statue in Istocno shortly after the unveiling ceremony last night.

ladies touching statue of Princeps- for luck?

Today is also the first day of Ramadan:

best wishes for ramadan from zontul films