The Assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand and a Nice Picnic Lunch (Recipes: Lemon Cheese, Eggs with Ham, and Chocolate Cookies)

Washington Evening Star, June 28, 1914 to July 4, 1914

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On June 29, 1914, readers of D.C.’s Evening Star learned that the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie had been assassinated the previous day in Sarajevo. The city was under martial law, mourning ceremonies were underway, and the assassin had been taken into custody. The young man, Gavrilo Princip, had managed to kill the royal couple after an earlier attempt by terrorists to bomb their carriage had gone awry. While that attack had only caused “a slight injury to a passing Mussulman,” Princip had had better luck. “The aim of the assassin,” the article noted, “was so true that each of the bullets inflicted a mortal wound.”(1)

Deeper in the paper, the editorial board debated what the assassination would mean to an emperor they described as “the unhappiest man of modern times” – or to his possibly even more unhappy domain. As they pointed out, “The crime is a portent of the seething of discontent felt in all parts of the empire.” They predicted Austria-Hungary would soon be plunged into “the gravest troubles,” troubles which would doubtless draw in Germany and Russia as well. (2)

They were right that grave troubles were forthcoming. But as they believed that problems would break out following the death of Emperor Franz Joseph — which didn’t take place until 1916 — they were off by a couple of years on their timing.

But then, at the end of June 1914, no one anywhere actually knew what was about to take place.

Starting a project about World War I with the assassination of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand is about as cliché as starting a novel with the sentence “It was a dark and stormy night.” The death marks the beginning of the series of (often spectacularly bad) international decisions during the July Crisis that led to Austria-Hungary declaring war on July 28th. The start of the spilling of so much blood also led to the spilling of considerable ink by historians, who’ve been debating why the war started pretty much since it began.

While there were huge political stakes attached to the assassination, though, politics were not the main focus for the Evening Star. The June 29th article on the attempt briefly mentioned foreign policy, but the issue’s column-long personal portrait of the Archduke ignored his political role entirely. It first presented him as a youth whose “escapades had been such as are so often ascribed to royal lads.” Despite one alleged prank where he repeatedly jumped his horse over a peasant’s funeral bier (those crazy royal kids!) the article insisted Ferdinand had long since settled down, becoming a good military man, a railroad enthusiast “said to enjoy nothing so much as running an engine” and a crack shot who had the heads of trophy kills stuck all over the walls of his chateau. (3)

(That description didn’t really do justice to his love for hunting, by the way. Ferdinand had killed over 270,000 animals in his lifetime, at one point racking up 2,140 kills in one day, and, according to historian Gary B. Cohen, had so many taxidermied animals on display at his chateau that “You had to be careful walking down the halls to avoid getting impaled by antlers.” No indication if you also had to worry about being run over by trains on the grounds.)

The real story, and the main focus of the article, was his romance: how he had braved the wrath of an emperor for the woman he loved. When the emperor protested Franz choosing Sophie, the article reported, the archduke reminded him that the emperor was the one who had said to ignore politics and “follow the impulse of his heart.” Ferdinand “stubbornly” refused to change his mind, arguing the Austrians wanted a happy monarch more than a correctly married one. And the couple did turn out happy. “There was no question,” the article noted, “that they were deeply in love, and ever continued so.” (4)

The Archduke the Evening Star’s readers saw, therefore, was a romantic, a family man, and a rich one at that, and this was the focus that remained on him remained through the week. In fact, one of the key reminders that comes from reading through the Evening Star’s coverage for the week of the funeral is that the Archduke was, well, an Archduke – a really high-up royal in a major imperial court.

In the week after the assassination, the royal standing of the murdered man came through with coverage which highlighted the pomp and circumstance of the couple’s travels back to Austria in much greater prominence than the ongoing fallout in the Balkans. A top-front page article detailed the transfer of the coffins from a town in Herzegovinia “draped in black,” with drumrolls accompanying the movement of the bodies; the switch from a royal yacht to a battleship for the main sea journey, involving a nineteen-gun salute; and an on-board blessing of the bodies on the battleship’s afterdeck “transformed into a mortuary chapel decorated with flags.” (5) The Star included below this a short article recounting the children’s devastation at learning of their parents’ deaths, and discussing how much the bodies were insured for. (6) Only below that was there a brief update on the situation in Bosnia.(7)

(In case you’re curious: The archduke was worth $12 million. Sophie merited only $6 million. )


Click to view 1914 news footage of the funeral transfer and procession at Trieste, via the IWM (IWM 1046b)

Similar grandeur was detailed for the transfer of the bodies from Trieste to a train – again made into a mortuary chapel – that would take them to their final resting place, (8) The line of mourners waiting to see the bodies at the Hofburg Chapel “extended for a mile.” There the bodies rested in splendor, in “silver coffins ornamented with gold:” oak leaves for the archduke, lilies for the countess. They lay in a room together surrounded by multiple candles and flowers. Among the hundreds of offerings: two small wreaths of white roses placed right at the coffins’ feet, with a ribbon bearing the names “Sofie, Max, Ernst” – the last gift of the couple’s children. (9)

Reporting on the assassination ended for the week with a short article on the funeral on July 4th, portraying a “simple ceremony” involving a funeral procession to Schloss Artstetten, where “priests and nuns said prayers at the side of the cafalques for several hours” before two trains filled with imperial family members arrived to accompany the coffins to their final resting place. (10)

The primary focus on the Archduke as a tragic royal, part of a cursed family, taking precedence over coverage of the political fallout of his murder, gives a good reminder of how little anyone expected widespread, drastic results from the Archduke’s murder. The Evening Star’s readers would have known there was strife in the Balkans; they would have had a good grasp on just how the Archduke was killed. But they would have mostly seen that a royal was tragically dead, and buried in pomp and splendor – if not, due to an old man’s pettiness, with all the splendor his rank deserved.

The Archduke and Sophie are buried at Schloss Artstetten, which now hosts a museum dedicated to Franz Ferdinand. You can tour the grounds as well. Be careful of pointy deer heads in the hall if you go.


RECIPES:

This week’s recipes come from the Evening Star’s plan for a picnic to celebrate the newly in place “Safe and Sane” Fourth of July, and before we make them, we need a bit more history. You see, instructions on how to celebrate a “Safe and Sane” Fourth were needed because it was only recently that the Fourth had stopped being, for lack of a better description, Unsafe and Batcrap Crazy.

Part of the turbulence of the Fourth had political and racial roots. In the aftermath of the Civil War, Americans were divided over how to celebrate independence. The restoration of the union did not mean unity, and the anniversary of country’s birth became particularly divisive. African-Americans added in their own celebrations, while some white Southerners refused to participate at all.

Part of the insanity, however, just came from the fact that many patriotic Americans could not control themselves when granted access to explosive devices. July 5th newspaper front pages often featured a litany of accidents, injuries, property damages, and deaths. The Lancaster Daily Intelligencer, for example, included on its front page for July 5, 1890 reports of: one fatal injury, two fires, a cut hand, three shooting injuries (two self-inflicted), gas burns, and three burned faces – one by accidental cannon discharge. The list was not unusual.

Gradually, people – led in part by the Chicago Tribune – began to push for a “safe and sane” Fourth where people could both celebrate the country’s birth, and wake the next day with all their fingers intact. It wasn’t easy to change established habits, as can be seen by this June 1912 Washington, DC laundry list of what folks weren’t allowed to do in town:

“No firecracker, squib or other fireworks nor noisemaking explosives of any kind shall be sold and delivered, discharged or set off within the city of Washington, or the fire limits of the District of Columbia, or in the more  populated portions of said District[…] No gun, air gun, rifle, air rifle, pistol, revolver, or other firearm, cannon or torpedo shall be discharged or set off within the city of Washington, or the fire limits of the District of Columbia, without a special written permit [….], nor within 500 yards of the Potomac river, Eastern branch or Anacostia river, Rock creek or any public road, highway, schoolhouse, building or buildings, shed, barn, outhouse, public park, reservation, graveyard or burial place, playground, golf course, tennis court, picnic ground, camp ground, or any place where people are accustomed to congregate, inclosure for stock, railroad track, outside of such fire limits for the District of Columbia, without the written consent of the owner or occupant thereof and a special written permit from the major and superintendent of police.” (11)

With all of that possible fun taken away, clearly the only thing to do was pack a lunch and go sit on the grass somewhere. The Star offered a wide variety of possible treats to bring along, including an “elaborate luncheon” that was a good choice if there was “a servant to spread it out.” We don’t have one of those, so I opted for some of the choices from the “simple lunch” instead — and for choices that didn’t involve sardines. (Why did so many choices involve sardines? Why?)

Our completely sane picnic lunch features Lemon Cheese, Ham and Eggs, and chocolate cookies. Let’s get to it.

Lemon Cheese Sandwich

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Put a quarter of a pound of butter, a pound of sugar, the juice of three lemons and the grated rind of two into a pan and allow them to become very hot, until the sugar melts. Stir, and while stirring slowly add two well beaten eggs. Stir constantly until the mixture thickens. Then put into jars and cover them and keep in a cool place. Spread between slices of bread for a dainty picnic sandwich or for afternoon tea. This same lemon cheese can be used in layer cake or in dainty shells of puff paste.

Some thoughts on this one before we begin:

First: it has a pound of sugar in it, and you’re suggesting perhaps it can be used in layer cake or puff pastry? You think? What tipped you off?

Second: This is lemon curd, isn’t it? It has to be. If so, hats off to whatever Brit pushed for “lemon curd” instead of “lemon cheese.” It’s not that “lemon curd” sounds very appetizing anyways, but “lemon cheese” just sounds like something went horribly, horribly wrong.

Now, notes on the recipe:

We’re going to halve the ingredients, as we’re not making curd for a crowd.

The original recipe calls for slowly stirring the eggs into the hot liquid. This, in my experience, is a recipe for disaster. Stirring eggs in directly will get you a sauce with chunks of scrambled eggs. Not that I know this because of an incident with stovetop brownies in 2015 that my family still reminds me of. In the words of Judy Geller, “It did not taste good.”

To avoid having lemon-sugar scrambled eggs, we have two options:

  1. Temper the eggs before adding them in, or
  2. Follow thedirections for modern lemon curd recipes, and mix everything first and then heat it all together, verrrrrrrrrrrrrry slowly, stirring constantly.

Being a) not a purist, b) prone to scrambling when mixing hot liquid and eggs, and c) somewhat lazy, I went for option two. Tempering may be the real way to go, though.

Lemon Cheese (Lemon Curd)

Prep: 10 minutes, longer if you’re really bad at zesting lemons
Cook: 15-20, stirring constantly

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 egg, well beaten
  • ½ stick butter, sliced
  • 2 cups sugar
  • Zest of one lemon
  • Juice of 1 ½ lemons

Zest one lemon, slowly and painfully. Avoid the white.
Juice that lemon, then cut another lemon in half. Juice that half. Fish out the seeds.
In a saucepot, mix together the juice, the zest, 1 well-beaten egg, ½ stick butter, sliced, and 2 cups of sugar.
Heat gradually over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, being sure to scrape the sides and bottom.
The “cheese” is ready when it is thick enough that the whisk leaves marks. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a storage container.
Lemon cheese-curd will keep in the fridge for up to a week.

Verdict: Delicious but not quite right, probably due to my cooking technique. It was still a bit gritty, as if all the sugar didn’t quite melt. I’ll try either leaving it a bit longer, or properly tempering it. It’s also a bit too sweet – it might be better with more lemon juice and less sugar. But quite yummy, nevertheless.

Eggs with Ham

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Mince boiled ham and mix it with the yolks from hard-boiled eggs, with a little mustard and cream. Then fill the egg whites generously, rounding each off. Wrap in waxed paper to carry.

This I love. No measurements on the ham, the mustard, or the cream. No explanation of why we’re using cream – is it a stand-in for the mayo that usually goes in deviled eggs? Is it because on this picnic, we want to up the number of possible foods that can make people violently ill if they sit out in the D.C. sun for too long?  And no suggestions on how many eggs to make. Based on the lemon curd and the chocolate cookies, though, I’m guessing had they specified, it would have been around 3 dozen and the meat from half a pig.

It’s hard-boiled eggs with ham, though. How wrong could we go?

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Eggs with Ham
Total Time: 10 minutes, maybe more if your hard-boiled eggs are really freaking annoying to peel, like mine were.

Ingredients

  • 6 hard-boiled eggs
  • Cooked ham – about 4 oz
  • 1 ½ tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp cream

Directions:

Hardboil your eggs per your preferred method and then dash into an ice bath.
Once cool, peel the eggs. Become very frustrated. Continue peeling until all the tiny bits of shell are finally off.
Cut eggs in half length-wise. Remove yolks and place into a bowl. Use a fork or a potato masher to mash yolks.
Chop 4 oz. of cooked ham into a small dice. Add to bowl.
Add 1 ½ tbsp of Dijon mustard and 2 tsp of cream to the bowl. Mix thoroughly.
Taste, and adjust as needed.
Fill egg whites with mixture.

I’d vote for taking them to your picnic secure in a Tupperware and preferably in a cooler with lots of ice, though, instead of the wax paper.

Verdict: Three out of four taste-testers highly approved! The fourth won’t eat hard-boiled eggs, so his vote doesn’t really count.

Chocolate Cookies

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Mix one small cup of butter, two cups of sugar, four eggs, one cup grated chocolate, three cups of flour, one teaspoon vanilla. Roll very thin and bake in quick oven. If the chocolate is melted it will mix better with the batter.

If you’re paying close attention, you’ll notice this recipe is missing one pretty important item: baking soda. Soda is used in other recipes, including the cookie one right above this on the page, so it’s not a time-period omission. It just turns out you can make cookies without baking soda. I did not know that. Someone else who’s feeling crazy should try this recipe with and see how it turns out. I stuck to without because I wanted to see what would happen. Like a science experiment. A delicious, delicious science experiment.

I halved this as well. I regret it, because spoiler alert: they were good. It’s probably best for my health that I didn’t make the full batch, but it’s sad for my tummy.

Chocolate Cookies

Prep: 10 minutes
Baking: 10-12 per batch
Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Ingredients:

  • 3 squares semi-sweet baking chocolate, melted
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla (not a typo – I kept it at a teaspoon on purpose)
  • 1 ½ cups of flour

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350.

We’re going to skip grating the chocolate, since we’re melting it anyways. The internet tells us that 6oz of baking chocolate is a cup and each square is 1oz. We trust the internet implicitly. Since we’re halving the recipe, we’ll use 3 squares (which I would like to point out are really rectangles) and melt them. Melt over low heat in a saucepan on your stovetop, or melt in a bowl in your microwave. If using the microwave, put on high for 30 seconds, stir, and then repeat, until the chocolate is melted. (On my 1200 watt microwave, this took only one 30-second blast.) Set aside to cool.

In your mixer, mix together the ½ cup softened butter and the one cup sugar until creamy. You can do this by hand if you want to be authentic and have really sweet muscles on just one arm, but I don’t recommend it.

Crack two eggs into a separate bowl. Pause to remove any bits of eggshell you let fall in. Use a fork to beat the eggs.

Add the two beaten eggs and the teaspoon vanilla to the butter and sugar. (We’re halving everything else, but keeping a teaspoon vanilla. I like vanilla.) Mix thoroughly, scraping down the side of the bowl as needed.

Add in the melted baking chocolate and mix again.

Slowly add in the 1 ½ cups of flour, mixing to fully combine.

Place rounded spoonfuls onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. (The original says to “roll thin.” I have no idea how to do that, and this is how I usually bake cookies, so we’ll go with it.)

Bake 10-12 minutes, until browned around the edges and still slightly soft in the middles. Start checking at 10, 8 if you’re a nervous Nellie.

Cool for a few minutes on the tray before moving to a wire rack.

I have no idea how long they would keep because we ate them really fast.

Verdict: A keeper! Quite chocolate-y and delicious. I took them out a bit earlier on the second batch, so they were softer in the middle, and this made them much chewier. I’d recommend that, although the ones that are crispier were great too.

And finally, to celebrate the launch of the blog, here’s one more excellent recipe for you, from the June 30th Evening Star. I didn’t make it myself, but I’m not hesitant to share as I think it’s very accessible. It doesn’t even need to be translated into modern recipe instruction format!

Pumpernickel Sandwich

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Put a very thin slice of pumpernickel bread between two thin buttered slices of white bread. Boston brown bread cut not quite so thin may be used in the same way.

Please note: Not recommended for those following Atkins or Keto.


Footnotes

  1. “Dual Tragedy in Bosnia Followed by Martial Law,” Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), June 29, 1914.
  2. Another Hapsburg Tragedy,” Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), June 29, 1914
  3. “Tragedy Made Him Heir,” Evening Star, June 29, 1914
  4. “Tragedy Made Him Heir,” Evening Star, June 29, 1914
  5. “People’s Tribute Paid Royal Dead,” Evening Star, June 30, 1914
  6. “People’s Tribute Paid Royal Dead,” Evening Star, June 30, 1914
  7. “People’s Tribute Paid Royal Dead,” Evening Star, June 30, 1914
  8. “Austria Honors Memory of Archduke and Wife. Bodies of Assassin’s Victims, Landed at Trieste, to Be taken to Vienna,” Evening Star, July 2, 1914
  9. “Throngs of Mourners Express Their Grief. People Pay Tribute to Murdered Archduke and Duchess of Hohenberg,” Evening Star, July 3, 1914
  10. “Burial of Royal Couple Beneath Castle Chapel. Simple Ceremony at Funeral of Archduke Ferdinand and His Consort at Artstetten,” Evening Star July 4, 1914
  11. “In Need of Funds,” Evening Star, June 29, 1912

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