Who's Who - Alexander Wekerle

Alexander Wekerle Alexander Wekerle (1848-1921) served as Hungarian Prime Minister from August 1917 until his declaration of Hungarian independence in October 1918, which brought about his own dismissal from office.

By the time Wekerle took office aged 69 in August 1917 he had already served two earlier terms as Hungarian Prime Minister.  A conservative opponent of constitutional reform he nevertheless found himself bounced into proposing constitutional change by Austro-Hungarian Emperor Karl I (who had opposed Wekerle's appointment), whose primary concerns were for the Habsburg Empire above all else.

With Wekerle's half-hearted attempts at Hungarian reform predictably rejected by the Hungarian parliament towards the close of 1917 he instead turned his attention towards the separation of the Austrian and Hungarian armies, proposing nationalist command structures for each.

Despite this bold policy Wekerle nevertheless remained in favour of the Dual Monarchy of Austria and Hungary, established in 1867 as the 'Compromise'.  Indeed he demanded army separation as the price for his ongoing support for the Dual Monarchy.

1918 saw Wekerle shift his position to a more clearly definable Hungarian nationalist stance as he assumed leadership of the country's republican movement.  Consequently on 16 October 1918 he effectively vetoed Karl's last-ditch attempt at preserving the Empire with his October Manifesto (which vainly attempted to make concessions to the Empire's various nationalities).

Fast on the heels of his rejection of Karl's policy he proclaimed Hungarian independence on 19 October 1918.  However Karl remained nominal King of Hungary under the terms of independence: he therefore used his remaining power to exact revenge upon Wekerle, forcing him from office on 23 October.

Despite Wekerle's fall from power Hungarian nationalism continued unabated with the appointment of Count Karolyi as his successor.  Karolyi proclaimed a Hungarian republic on 11 November 1918.

Retiring from politics Wekerle died in 1921.

The Austro-Hungarian declaration of war was the first ever delivered by telegram.

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