in a dusty Serbian town...
"One of the last known photographs of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Hapsburg, heir to the throne of his uncle, the octogenarian Emperor Francis Joseph of Austria-Hungary, shows him coming down the steps of the city hall in Sarajevo a few minutes after eleven on the morning of Sunday, June 28 1914. Under the refulgent uniform topped with a plumed hat his stout body is rigid; his heavy features seem congested and his neck swollen above the tight fitting collar; his thick, curling mustaches bristle like a wild boar’s. Besides him walks his morganatic wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg, her plump face looking pinched and taut. They are just about to step into a waiting car. Both are clearly uneasy, but not yet really frightened. The local Bavarian dignitaries, who line the steps, framing the doomed couple, are not frightened either. They know that man does not evade his fate. The knowledge is written on their faces: the photograph catches them with their gloved hands raised to their flower-pot hats in a gesture of awe and resignation, as one salutes a funeral.
The whole scene, captured for posterity by some anonymous cameraman, stands out so vividly across the years that in looking at it one almost has the impression of reliving a personal nightmare. As in certain nightmares, incredulity wrestles with the sense of doom. Surely someone will cry out a warning before it is too late, surely someone will try to do something. In fact, someone does, but it is the wrong thing, and already it is too late. In five minutes Francis Ferdinand and Sophie will be lying unconscious in their speeding car bleeding to death from an assassin’s bullets: an ancient dynasty—and with it another way of life—will start to topple; and then another and another and another. Close to nine million men will fall in World War I as a direct result of those two shots fired in a dusty Bavarian town."
THE FALL OF DYNASTIES