Kaiser Karl Wants Peace – The Sixtus Affair I THE GREAT WAR Week 139

We see battle after battle, all around the
world, and yet no side can achieve victory. The millions of men fighting are obviously
affected by the war each day, but unlike earlier wars, this war is total war and it also deeply
affects every one of the people back home. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to the Great War. Last week the world was stunned by a spontaneous
revolution in Russia that toppled the Tsar and then saw two rival factions vying for
control. British and Indian forces occupied Baghdad,
a real blow to the Ottoman Empire, and in the Balkans Austrian and Bulgarian forces
began counter attacking the Toplice Rebellion. Here’s what followed. The British continued advancing in the Middle
East, taking Fallujah, Deltawa, and Sindia, and also spent most of the week advancing
in the west. In fact, from the 17th to the 19th the British
and French took 170 villages on the western Front, including Bapaume, as the Germans abandoned
the line from Andechy to Oise, which they’d held for two years, and retreated to their
Hindenburg Line. The French were also advancing in Macedonia,
capturing a mile of Bulgarian trenches and 1,200 prisoners North of Monastir the 18th
and a few days later finally manage to free Monastir, the current Serbian capital, from
daily shelling. And what of France’s huge ally, Russia? The new Provisional government announced that
Russia would remain in the war, but there were – as I said – two rival centers of government. Prince Lvov, the new Prime Minister, urged
active participation in the war, but in response, the Petrograd Soviet appointed political commissars
to all military units. Their main task was to urge soldiers not to
fight. Also, in order to try to fix the constant
shortage of food and supplies to the army, all men over 43 years old were released from
duty, shrinking the size of the army. On the 22nd, Great Britain, France, the US,
Romania, Switzerland, and Italy recognized the provisional government of Russia. The leadership of its army was uncertain,
though, as this week the appointment of Grand Duke Nikolai as commander in chief was annulled. But there was a lot going on on other home
fronts too. Barrow-in-Furness lies on the west coast of
England up near the Lake District and is a fairly sleepy place, but during the war it
was a major supplier of both ships and munitions for Britain, thanks to the Vickers factory
there. Since they set up shop there in 1897, Vickers
had never really had a smooth relationship with the workforce, but things were in overdrive
by now. There wasn’t enough housing for the workers
so living standards had seriously fallen, inflation was rampant, workers were expected
to work longer hours, and there were even tribunals to discipline those who were late
or were seen as slackers. Since munitions fell under the Defense of
the Realm Act, punishments could be heavy. Last June the workers had gone on strike to
protest the “dilution” of labor, with unskilled workers operating machines that
had been for specialists earlier. That strike lasted a week, but you could see
that another walkout was kind of inevitable. And it came on March 21st, 1917 when workers
protested the managers’ refusal to honor a bonus scheme they had for finishing jobs
on time, and against the arrest of union officials in Manchester and Sheffield. Soon, in Parliament, MPs were asking why the
ministry of munitions isn’t doing more to help the women in Barrow who lost their jobs
because the men went on strike. You got this conversation between an MP and
the Secretary of the Ministry of Munitions: MP: “Is the Honourable Member aware that
many of these women… have come as far as Belfast… and they are no more responsible
for what has now happened than if there had been a breakdown of machinery, and are the
women going to be stranded and neither the company nor the Ministry accept responsibility
for them?” Secretary: “We should be creating a very
severe precedent indeed if the government, whenever a certain number of people were thrown
out of employment as a result of the action of another body of workpeople, were to relieve
them of their distress.” MP: “I would like to ask whether these are
the same women who the Honourable Member himself said the other day had saved England during
the crisis?” Two weeks from now, the government announces
that it would take action unless work started again, including lifetime prison sentences
for the strike leaders. Work resumed, though there would be another
strike in May for the same reason and the government would not address the causes of
the strike, but at least built new housing estates, which actually did settle things
down. Something else happened this week away from
the front, and it would have repercussions down the line. Okay, Karl had been Austro-Hungarian emperor
for only a few months and two things about him: he was at least interested in peace,
and he didn’t feel that Austria should always act in concert with and subordinate to Germany,
right? His wife was Zita of Bourbon-Parma. Her older brother was Sixtus, Prince of Bourbon-Parma. Sixtus and his brother Xavier had joined the
Belgian army when the war broke out. They wanted to defend France but as members
of a ruling house could not be French officers, so they joined the Belgians. Back in January, one or both of them had met
their mother in Switzerland, and she had given them a letter from Emperor Karl that detailed
his willingness to make a separate peace between Austria-Hungary and the Entente. The princes agreed to the basic allied requirements
for such a peace; Alsace-Lorraine returned to the French, Belgium and Serbia restored
as independent nations, and Constantinople goes to Russia. Karl wrote a letter on March 17th in which
he generally agreed to these terms and it was sent through Prince Sixtus to British
King George and Prime Minister Lloyd George, and French President Poincaré and Prime Minister
Briand. On March 23rd, Sixtus and Xavier met with
Karl and Austrian Foreign Minister Count Czernin to continue negotiations. Karl wrote a letter that stated that he supported
French claims to Alsace-Lorraine. However, also back on the 17th, Briand and
his cabinet had resigned in France, and Alexandre Ribot replaced him. Ribot had no real interest in a separate peace
with Austria. And none of these letters mentioned Italy
anyhow, which was a pretty major component of Austria’s war. And Italy had already said that in any peace
a bunch of Austrian territory must go to Italy. So next month Lloyd George and Poincaré meet
with Italian Foreign Minister Sonnino and Prime Minister Orlando. Now, the former two did not tell the latter
about Karl’s correspondence, but asked how Italy felt about lowering its demands. The answer was a big fat no, which is odd
because it seems the Italians didn’t know that Italian Army Chief of Staff Luigi Cadorna
had, around now and apparently acting on orders of the Italian King, let Austria know that
though Italy still wanted the Trentino, they were prepared to lower their demands. Now, all of this was still secret; I’m just
saying it now because it happened now and will come back to seriously haunt Karl in
the future. But it was naïve to expect otherwise. I mean, what he was doing was basically sending
out feelers for abandoning his main ally Germany, and even the territory he was willing to give
up in France and Belgium, yeah, that was currently held by the Germans, it’s no real loss to
him who has it. He wasn’t giving up a whole lot of his empire. We’ll see this explode in the future. If Karl was thinking about getting out of
the war, one country was thinking about joining it. They might not have much of a choice, as the
German submarine assaults continued. On the 18th, three American ships were sunk,
and on the 23rd another. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson met with his
cabinet and asked their opinion. To a man, they wanted war with Germany. Also this week, the French battleship Danton
was torpedoed in the Mediterranean with 296 lives lost, and the British hospital ship
Asturias was torpedoed off the British coast without warning and managed to run aground
instead of sinking. 31 people were killed. And that was the week, Allied advances in
the west, the Balkans, and the Middle East, uncertainty in Russia, civilian deaths at
sea, a munitions strike in Britain, and a naïve emperor betraying his ally. Well, you gotta call it that, right? I mean, even though there was basically zero
chance of that peace happening, it’s still pretty serious. What would Germany say when they found out? German casualties for the war up to the end
of February (Chronology) are reported at 4,148,163. Over four million men killed, wounded, or
just plain missing, and let’s not forget the starvation conditions now at home in Germany. And Karl wanted to propose an unacceptable
separate peace? For a war that his empire initially declared? That’s pretty stupid. But what can you expect? If you want
to learn more about Karl’s predecessor, Franz Joseph I, you can click right here for
that. Our Patreon supporter of the week is Iñaki
Arrondo Cipitria – help us out on Patreon or buy our official merchandise to make this
show better and better.

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

  1. Will we get a special about Karl von Habsburg? "Well-intentioned but terribly naive" sums up a lot of decisions in his brief reign, from his clumsy (if understandable) attempt to make a separate peace to his ban on gas weaponry.

    Failing that, will we get to see details on Germany's contingency plans for invading Austria? (or is that spoiler?)

  2. Hey Indi, really love the show, could you please (if possible) do a special episode on Portugal's involvement in WW1. My families country of origins history really interests me. Keep up the good work!

  3. The Germans tried to run ads in newspapers to warn Americans that if they were on a ship heading to Europe that they were subject to be sunk. American media refused to run any German ads and thousands of American civilians died as result. If the Americans really wanted to be neutral, don't you think they would have put a travel ban on Europe? No, they loaded civilians on ships that were hauling munitions to supply the French and then cried foul when said ships were destroyed, even though it was illegal.

  4. silly Emperor Karl. How naive he was to try to save the Austro-Hungarian Empire, end the war 20 months early, and save millions of lives.

  5. I understand the separate peace proposal wasn't great, but calling it and Karl stupid and naive is somewhat odd in the face of a National Leader actually seriously proposing peace. I think the war has finally broken Indy. Then again, this is modern war, and everybody breaks sometime.

  6. Interesting episode. I live just a few miles from Barrow and used to work in the shipyard, but had no idea about the wartime strikes. The 'new housing estate' build would be Vickerstown on the island of Walney.

  7. Questions for out of the trenches. How did the Allied governments react to the Russian government crisis? Surely they needed their soldiers, did they plot their own schemes? Thanks Indy and crew, awesome work as always( Day 1 fan since Reddit brought it to my attention as it begun)

  8. Hey Indy I have a question.Was there any plan from Italian high command to perform a naval invasion behind the Austrian front line?

  9. The Sixtus Affair The letter of the Emperor Charles I of Austria to the president of the french republic Raymond Poincaré for a separate peace

  10. The AH empire was shit, how did it even become an empire in the first place? It's the definition of incompetence.

  11. Flo my boi, imma need you to help me find something. There was a video in which, in a part, Indy talked about a painting of the Franco-Prussian war in which Prussian soldiers allow a French solder to kiss his wife and baby goodbye before being taken into captivity. Whats the name os the painting? or in what video did it appear in? Thanks

  12. One trick against a massive coalition. You cede your allies territory to fill some war scores and peace out unscratched.

  13. You really can't expect anything less from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It would be outside of their nature to not do anything that stupid…

  14. No question. I just want to say how informative your content is and yet you somehow keep it so interesting. Keep up the good work. 🙂

  15. Did I miss all mention of the name "Operation Alberich" (Wikipedia has an article, sorry to be so trite) for the German retreat to the Hindenburg line, comments included? I think one has gone past the keeper, missed by third man, and to the boundary for 4 here chaps.

  16. For people interested in a somewhat more balanced portrayal of Karl and his peace initiatives, I would reccomend this PhD thesis: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/529/1/Brennan_Reforming%20Austria-Hungary.pdf It gives an insight into the domestic issues of Austria-Hungary that are the key to understanding why Austria was doing the things it was doing; and to Karl's personality and political ambitions.

  17. the hypocrisy of america during the era of the great war is disgusting – claiming neutrality yet trading almost exclusively with the british, and lending so much money to the allies to help with the war effort, and even turning a blind eye to the british seizing the few american trade ships bound for Germany.

    yet get all angry when Germany defends itself by trying to deny Britain the cargo they so desperately need to continue the war effort. If the tables had been turned, and any other country did that the the US, they would long ago have considered it to be an act of war

  18. Hard to blame Kaiser Karl here. His #1 job was to preserve his empire, and the only way to preserve the empire was to get out of the war with the House of Hapsburg's honor intact. If Austria could have managed even a white peace, Karl's plans for a moderate liberalization and the establishment of a quasi-republican format of government might have even been enough to save the Austro-Hungarian empire as an intact political unit… maybe.

    Whether it would have worked or not, it was his best bet to save his power base, so as Emperor, he had to break with Germany if he could. It's the last gasp of old style European dynastic politics and in that arena it's exactly what a dynastic state like the Austro-Hungarian Empire needed to be doing…

    also this is why dynastic states never fought total wars. Because unless th only way to preserve the kingdom was to fight to the bitter end, preserving the kingdom was always more important than protecting allies, fighting for ideals, or avoiding making painful concessions to keep the kingdom going and preserve the dynasty. There was always a point where maintaining control of the masses was more important than getting your way. The difference between the idiocy of Czar Nicholas and Kaiser Karl is that Karl realized that, he was just too late to do anything about it.

  19. You can call Emperor Karl naive. But, I cannot help thinking that for a show that talks about the millions of men needlessly dying and how nobody wanted peace but victory for their side. Yet, when one leader seeks to achieve peace he is called naive at best and a traitor at worst. Karl knew that Germany wanted nothing to do with peace. You can blame Austria-Hungary for the war but it is clear while he served as an officer Karl had no love for war. How can you blame him for trying to achieve peace, save his empire, and save lives? Your talk of how evil a world gone mad with war is, seems rather hollow when you call one of the few leaders vying for peace "stupid."

  20. Hey Indy
    Are you going to make a special about Denmark in WW1?
    You talked about how the Danish army could take Berlin, if Germany had continued unrestricted submarine warfare in week 129.

  21. I would love to know more about neutrality and how does it work. Why, for instance, Suissland is neutral and everyone respect that, while no one seemed to respect Belgium´s nor Greece´s?

  22. "Stupid" is no loner considered an acceptable term in any circumstance, even though in this case, it seems especially apt.

  23. I've got a question to which i still haven't got an answer : What it really mostly about stealing strips of land from each other? If so, what made that particular land politically important? If not, what else was there?

  24. Thank you for your provision of the download link of the english book from Manfried Rauchensteiner about the Austrian Empire in WW1, I have the German version, really great work!

  25. – Funny to hear "Monastir the current Serbian capital", but yes, 100 years ago it was the capital, as Belgrade was occupied by the Central Powers – and northern Macedonia was a part of Serbia. By the same token Iași (Jassy) was the capital of Romania.
    – Incredible that communist move of attaching a political commissar to each and every army unit – undermining – for all intents and purposes – the authority of the officers. References to this are made in military SF – so I was doubtful about the veracity of it – but clearly it happened, and there are probably some great anecdotes about it.
    – Amazing that the Ministry of Munitions expected the strike to resolve itself – with workers possibly turning against each other. People were really treated no better than cogwheels back then.
    – IMHO Karl was a fool to negotiate peace behind Germany's back (and at their expense) but hey, at least he realized Austria-Hungary has gotten Europe into a huge mess and they needed a way out.

  26. This was a non-starter from the beginning of Karl's peace offer. Whatever Vittorio Emanuele III may have told Cadorna, Boselli was still PM and he wouldn't budge. Orlando was of the same mind. Cadorna was desperate for anything by now that would get him out of the frying pan, so to speak after all his failed offensives. Practically every politician now save the far right had had it with him, so any official lowering of terms was very unlikely.

  27. I don't really understand why the US was "forced" to join the war. Why were their ships supplying the UK in the first place?


  29. Could you do a video on how the secret society's influenced and contributed to the great war so they could futher advance their nwo agenda and money to do so ?

  30. Let see the Serbian slobs black hands murder the heir to the throne of Austro-Hungarian Empire and what should have been just between the Empire and Serbia alone Russia sticking their nose in it first. I don't buy the Free Manson lies any more.

  31. Germany for both world wars had 2 terrible choices of allies, i know they didn't have any other options but they on both wars were blatantly incompetent Austria-Hungary and Italy in the 2nd world war….. at least the Ottoman Empire and Imperial Japan were somewhat successful albeit short-lived.

  32. Kaiser Karl was the only one who after the war could hold his head up without shame, his attempt at working out a general peace was better than drowning Europe in blood and weakening the West as a whole, especially since we know the chaos that came after this foolish debacle.
    "Emperor Karl is the only decent man to come out of the war in a
    leadership position, no one listened to him. He sincerely wanted peace,
    and therefore was despised by the whole world. It was a wonderful chance
    that was lost."
    Anatole France
    "Karl was a great leader, a Prince of peace, who wanted to save the
    world from a year of war; a statesman with ideas to save his people from
    the complicated problems of his Empire; a King who loved his people, a
    fearless man, a noble soul, distinguished, a saint from whose grave
    blessings come."
    Herbert Vivian

  33. If Austria-Hungary's separate peace had worked, would have the freed up Italian soldiers been moved to the Western Front?

  34. it seems stupid just looking at it as is, but you can actually kinda see karls reasoning, really all he wanted at the beginning of the war was serbia right? well, he kinda got that last year, however, Austria-Hungary's been literally bleeding to death over the course of the war and Indy himself has said multiple times that Austria-Hungary's been running thin over the past year or so (running out of men to the point of German command over his armies, productions being pushed to the limit etc) you can see how they'd be absolutely exhausted by the time 1917 rolled around, and hey, nobody foresaw the war getting this big in such a short amount of time right? I'm honestly surprised more countries haven't considered bowing out

  35. If I had a time machine I would go back to 1914 and show each and every one of these videos to the British war council, then I would expect a tea and a thank you.

  36. I have a question, what goes into the research in the week by week episodes. I understand you used "the Great War" for this one but do you always use books? To simplify my question I could ask how do you know that 31 people died from a torpedo attack in the English Channel, I'm just curious about the methods of research going in to every episode. Great show, keep up the great work!

  37. I don't see why Karl wanting peace is stupid, A-H was just a pawn in Germanys imperialistic fantasy war, it was obvious Germans were in it till the bitter end so why shouldn't Karl try to wiggle his nation out the war that was all but lost.

  38. I’m from Barrow. Vickers was essentially the main reason why we were bombed in world war 2. Didn’t realise it still played such a big role in The Great War though. Interesting to see 👍🏼

  39. I don't believe Karl was being stupid at all.  Deceiving allies is very, very common.  Also, Karl had very good reasons to get out of the war. I am sure he would have given up more if asked.  If Germany tried anything, Austria-Hungary could declare war on Germany or take the part of a victim nation if Germany invaded to take it over.  Nevertheless, it would saved Karl's bacon in any case. Besides, the allies would have taken into consideration that the Great War was NOT Karl's war.  Trust me.  He was playing it smart and should have pressed the issue to get out of the war even at the expense of more territory.

  40. Karl was in position whatsoever to agree to any of the terms. The idea he could just give the ottoman capital away is absurd.

  41. Indie… If the serbs did not armed the assassins and idiot russia did not backed the serbs then world war one could have been avoided. Let the serbs suffer alone.

    So why blame austria? If you would reason the annexation of austria of slavic lands… That would be useless since russia and the great powers had been doing the same thing even the u.s. and japan

  42. Indy, I know this video is a year old, but I missed something when I watched it. Did I hear you correctly when you said, 'Monastir, the current Serbian capital'? The Last time I checked, Београд (Beograd, English Belgrade) was the capital of Serbia.

  43. As much as I'd hate to say it for the Entente, it would've been better for Russia, and then the world at large, if Russia had stopped fighting in the war after the February Revolution. Continuing the war was a huge factor in what brought the Soviet Union into existence.

  44. What. Not a single comment? What happened here????? The Great War, can you please answer me why this happened?

  45. I'm not sure whether you aware, but Kaiserin Zita told in one of her interviews available on youtube, that Karl talked privately to Wilhelm about it and had his principal agreement before he advanced in peace talks. Zita said in that interview that Wilhelm agreed with Karl but was overruled by his generals as they happened to gain ground on the front at that time. Now human memory may be quite unreliable, but should nevertheless be given some credence…

  46. Now when you look at the Austria-Hungarians; it was them who started the war. And moreover, they were literally saved by the Germans during the war many times against the Russians. After all these, Karl I is scheming behind the Germans… I think this is why absolute monarchies around the world has been obsolete. Because when you have a stupid monarch, its all over… Just like Nicholas of Russia..

  47. Thats cool the one country which caused the war is austria and austria is escaping from the war 😂😂😂

  48. I appreciate I'm a bit late to the party, but if the peace agreement Austria-Hungary was looking for had gone ahead, would Germany, Britain and France have thrown down arms? As they were only brought into the war to fight along their respective sides, and because of the Domino effect of alliances caused the war to spiral .

  49. I wonder how many lives would have been saved if the warring sides could have a stopped the war at this point. Imagine how many would have survived if peace were declared, American troops never arrived in Europe and the Spanish flu hadn't become a pandemic. We're talking millions of lives just from that alone.

  50. Constantinople should go to Greece, along whit Izmir and the Dardanels, Rumelia, Cyprus and the towns of Miletus and Halicarnassus.
    Russia geta the north coast of Anatolia, Armenia and landa until the desert rivers.
    The ottomans can keep central Anatolia and the coast north of Cyprus and then there can be peace.

Related Post