Žofie Chotková

Today in Mailbox we disclose the identity of our February mystery woman and announce the names of the four winners who will receive small gifts from Radio Prague for their correct answers. Listeners quoted: George Matusek, Don Schumann, Jaromír Hauzar, Andrew Connelly, David Eldridge, Paul R. Peacock, Charles Konecny, Hans Verner Lollike, Jacob Donaldson, Evelyn Coviello, Colin Law, Stephen Conlin, Ralph Francis.

Žofie Chotková
Welcome to the first Mailbox in March. Regular listeners will know that it is time again to quote from your answers to our February competition question and, of course, announce the names of the four winners. Once again, we received a great many correct answers some of which went to great detail and considerable length. It would be nice if we could quote much longer paragraphs of your answers on the air but alas, there is only so much time we have. So we’d better start. This answer is from George Matusek from Missouri:

“The answer to your current quiz (about the identity of the Bohemian noblewoman born in 1868 and married in 1900) is Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg. She was born as Sophie Marie Chotek (Žofie Marie Chotková).”

Don Schumann from Colorado, by the way a big fan of Czech vintage Skodas, wrote this:

“She was the daughter of the chief equerry at the Imperial Court in Vienna. When a young woman, Sophie became lady in waiting to the Archduchess Isabella of Pressburg. Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, first met Sophie at a dance in Prague in 1888. The couple fell in love but although Sophie came from a prominent Bohemian family, Franz Ferdinand knew that she would not be accepted as the wife of the future emperor. Franz Josef did not attend the wedding. Nor did his brothers or their families. Over the next few years the couple had three children: Sophie (1901), Maximilian (1902) and Ernst (1904).”

Jaromír Hauzar writes from Frankfurt, Germany:

Žofie Chotková
“My grandmother helped from time to time in the kitchen of Konopiště [Castle] and I still have a tin coffee pot which had been used during the marriage celebration in 1900 there.”

Andrew Connelly follows Radio Prague in Scotland:

“In public, Sophie would not appear alongside her husband; this included riding in separate carriages. Ironically, if the couple had followed this rigid protocol, they would have not been riding in the same carriage together that fateful day, and Sophie may have survived the hail of gunfire that claimed both their lives on June 28th, 1914.”

David Eldridge listens to us in England:

Franz Ferdinand and Žofie Chotková
“Sophie was usually excluded from accompanying her husband on official visits but as a special anniversary gift she was allowed to accompany her husband on a visit to the Austrian province of Bosnia-Herzegovina. It was there, in Sarajevo, the couple fell victim to the effects of the decline of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the resurgence of Serb nationalism. They were assassinated in a confused chain of events that was successful only at the second attempt after the bungling of the first attempt. The assassination was credited to be the spark that started the great imperialist war that was WWI which in turn brought about the conditions for WWII and through chains of events still affects our present day politics.”

Paul R Peacock writes from Australia:

“In 1914, on June 28th Sophie and her husband Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria were shot to death in Sarajevo by Gavrilo Princip. This was after an attempt by a would-be assassin who threw a bomb at her husband which missed whilst they were driving to the City Hall. For her safety, Ferdinand wanted to send her away but she insisted on staying with him and on the trip to the hospital to visit those injured in the bomb blast, Gavrilo Princip shot Ferdinand in the neck and Sophie in the abdomen. This murder sparked the outbreak of World War One, although of course there is more to a World War being declared than just the murder of two high profile people.”

Charles Konecny from Ohio sent us this answer:

Franz and Žofie with their children
“A gunshot has never caused a greater turmoil in Europe and the world, as the ones that killed Sophie and the Archduke Ferdinand that day in Sarajevo. The changes it brought to Europe were profound and of course Czechoslovakia was born. It was the war to end all wars, but it didn't. As far as Sophie goes, she was a very attractive woman and I can see why she caught the Archduke's eye.”

Hans Verner Lollike from Denmark actually visited the scene of the assassination:

“One year after the civil war ended in Bosnia, I visited Sarajevo with my family on the kind invitation of Bosnian friends. We stood at the corner where Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated.”

Jacob Donaldson sent in this answer:

“The assassinations of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria and Archduchess Sophie of Hohenberg occurred on June 28, 1914 in Sarajevo, Austria and Hungary; their deaths would, ironically, cause world war one to start exactly one month later on July 28, 1914.”

Evelyn Coviello writes from New York:

The assassination in Sarajevo
“The couple’s tragic assassination in Sarajevo on June 28,1914 triggered the onset of World War I. Coincidence or not? As their pre-nuptial was signed 14 years ago to the day. Sophie's orphaned children did not escape the wages of war and beginning in 1938 spent several years at Dachau concentration camp.”

Colin Law listens to Radio Prague in New Zealand:

“Sophie and Franz Ferdinand’s great grand-daughter Her Serene Highness Princess Sophie von Hohenburg hopes to get back Konopiště Castle, seized when the 1919 Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye carved up the old Hapsburg empire into Austria, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. The Hapsburgs were stripped of their property, but Sophie claims that as Franz Ferdinand’s children were never Hapsburgs the property should not have been taken.”

Stephen Conlin from Bristol, England makes an interesting comparison:

“Ironically it appears from Sophie's family tree that she could have been the solution to many of the Empire's problems. She had ancestors from the Austrian, Czech and Hungarian gentry and aristocracy. If Franz Joseph had died, say, in 1910, she and her husband might have helped to hold together and modernise the Empire into a federation that would have resembled more the European Union of today. The death of a royal personage in a car has a more recent echo. If her marriage had been as successful as Sophie von Hohenberg's, perhaps Diana, Princess of Wales could have shown how the British Royal Family might modernise and appeal to all generations. Sadly neither lady was destined to see her husband ascend the throne. Sophie and her husband were shot in Sarajevo in 1914, an event that led directly to the First World War.”

And finally an answer from Ralph Francis from Vancouver, Canada:

“The lady who was unfortunate enough to be involved in the start of WW I was Žofie Chotková. The serpentine on tram routes 22 and 23 [in Prague] was named Chotkovy Sady, presumably after her family or herself.”

Actually, the Chotkovy sady park and as the street alongside it were named after Sophie’s grandfather Karel Chotek.

Thank you very much indeed for taking the time to write all your detailed answers. As usual, only four of you can be picked out of the hat each month. The prizes go to: Karuna Kanta Pal from India, Simon Fisher and Ian Andrew Paseka from England and Stephen Wara from France. Congratulations!

And very briefly, here’s our March question:

March’s mystery man was born in 1861 in the town of Heřmanův Městec. Besides being a prolific writer, translator, teacher and later President Masaryk’s chief of protocol, he was also one of the founding members of the International Olympic Committee and its general secretary at one point.

The address for your answers is as usual [email protected] or Radio Prague, 12099 Prague. Until next week, bye-bye.