June 25, 1900
It was officially announced today that Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, the heir to the throne, "will formally renounce the rights of the succession to the imperial throne," next Thursday, reports the New York Times.
On the following day, he will marry Countess Sophie Chotek. This morganatic marriage is the reason for Franz Ferdinand's renouncement.
The archduke was born in 1863, the son of Archduke Karl Ludwig, the second brother of Emperor Franz Joseph, When he was twenty-two years old a "marriage was arranged for him by the Austrian Cabinet," but Franz Ferdinand's refusal to the proposition "was so uncompromising that the matter was promptly dropped." At the time, Franz Josef upheld his nephew's "right to choose his own wife."
Countess Sophie is thirty-one years old, and a member of the Bohemian aristocracy, where her father owns large estates. It has been "generally known" that the Archduke and the Countess "were much in love with each other."
The countess was the governess to the daughters of Archduke Friedrich and Archduchess Isabella. As Archduke Franz Ferdinand often visited Friedrich's home, many assumed that he would marry one of the Archduke's eight daughters.
"Great surprise was occasioned when it became evident that he had chosen, not one of the pupils, but the governess."
Countess Sophie was forced to leave Archduke Friedrich's home. Despite the imperial laws that forbid such an alliance, Franz Ferdinand has "moved heaven and earth to maker his wife."
Franz Ferdinand had considered marrying Sophie in Hungary, where "he is not restricted in his choice of a life partner.
The forfeiture to the succession "does not mean that the Archduke releases his personal rights to the throne," but only that his children will not have succession rights.
Hungary, Sophie could become Queen, which, according to Austrian law, the Queen of Hungary and the Empress of Austria, are the same. Thus, Franz Ferdinand was seeking a way to circumvent the imperial laws.
Franz Ferdinand enlisted the support of Hungary's prime minister and several Austrian officials. Eventually, they were able to get Franz Joseph's consent for the marriage, although he insisted "it must be a morganatic marriage."