Who's Who - Archduke Friedrich

Archduke Friedrich Archduke Friedrich (1856-1936) served as the Austro-Hungarian army's Commander-in-Chief from 1914-16.

Born on 4 June 1856 in Moravia Friedrich was the eldest son of Archduke Karl Ferdinand and Archduchess Elisabeth.  His younger brother Karl Stefan served as Inspector General of the Navy until 1916; another brother, Eugen, was one of the army's more competent wartime commanders.

Friedrich commanded V Corps from September 1889, an appointment he retained until April 1905 when he became Inspector General of Soldiery.  This was followed in 1907 by his appointment as Commander-in-Chief of the Austrian armed forces.  Friedrich, of decidedly reactionary views, frequently found himself in disagreement with the more modernistic Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne.

Following Ferdinand's assassination and shortly prior to the declaration of war (first against Serbia) in July 1914 Friedrich's role was expanded on 11 July 1914 to include command of both Austrian and Hungarian armies.

In reality however he deferred to his Chief of Staff Conrad von Hotzendorf in all major policy decisions, a testament to the latter's firm will rather than necessarily a reflection of Friedrich's own understated talents; a factor recognised (and envisaged) by the Emperor, Franz Josef I, in appointing Friedrich to his post.

Indeed Friedrich foresaw the potentially disastrous consequences of military confrontation on Austria-Hungary's numerous fronts: forever in Conrad's shadow he was however unable to avert the course of history.

With the Austro-Hungarian defence in Czernowitz and the army's poor reaction to the Brusilov Offensive attracting much criticism, Friedrich was replaced by incoming Emperor Karl I.  From February 1917 Friedrich played no further role in Karl's remaining melancholy prosecution of the war, formally retiring from the army on 5 November 1918.

The calamitous end of war in November 1918 resulted in Friedrich losing much of his numerous estate, although he successfully reclaimed a certain amount of land in Hungary in 1921.  He thereafter settled in Hungary in retirement.

He died on 30 December 1936 aged 80.

Britain introduced conscription for the first time on 2 February 1916.

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