Alexander, Count of Hoyos

Alexander, Count of Hoyos
Alexander Graf von Hoyos, Freiherr zu Stichsenstein
Chef de cabinet of the Imperial Foreign Minister
In office
22 April 1912 – 4 January 1917
Preceded by Friedrich Graf Szapáry von Muraszombath, Széchysziget und Szapár
Succeeded by None
Austro-Hungarian Minister to Norway
In office
14 February 1917 – 2 November 1918
Preceded by None
Succeeded by None
Personal details
Born 13 May 1876(1876-05-13)
Fiume, Austria-Hungary (now Croatia)
Died 20 October 1937(1937-10-20) (aged 61)
Schwertberg, Austria
Spouse(s) Edmée, née de Loys-Chandieu (1892–1945)

(Ludwig) Alexander (Georg) Graf von Hoyos, Freiherr zu Stichsenstein (13 May 1876 – 20 October 1937), was an Austro-Hungarian diplomat who played a major role during the July Crisis while serving as chef de cabinet of the Foreign Minister at the outbreak of the World War I in 1914. He was the grandson of Robert Whitehead, the inventor of the torpedo.




He was born in Fiume (now Rijeka, Croatia) on 13 May 1876 into the House of Hoyos, a noble family that hailed originally from Spain, but which had immigrated to Austria around 1525. Over the centuries, the family had become part of the Hungarian magnates.

His parents were Georg, Count Hoyos (1842–1904) and Alice Whitehead, who was the daughter of Robert Whitehead, the British engineer and inventor of the torpedo. They had married in 1869, and Georg had been in charge of the Whitehead shipyard in Fiume at the time. One of his sisters, Marguerite (1871–1945), was married to Herbert von Bismarck, the oldest son of Chancellor Otto von Bismarck.

On 24 April 1913, he married Edmée de Loys-Chandieu (1892–1945) in Paris, the daughter of Henri, Marquis de Loys-Chandieu, and the couple had four children.[1] His daughter Melanie, Countess Hoyos married a member of the Bismarck family. His descendants include Stephanie zu Guttenberg.


Following an expedition to China with his uncle, who served as British chargé d'affaires in Tokyo, Count von Hoyos started his diplomatic career as a provisional attaché at the legation in Beijing in 1900.[2] Then followed postings as attaché in Paris, Belgrade and Berlin and from 1905 as counsellor first at the legation in Stuttgart, then at the embassy in London.[3]

During the Bosnian crisis in 1908, he was sent on a mission to Berlin to lobby German support for the annexation and became an ardent supporter of Count Lexa von Aehrenthal's more activist foreign policy.[4]

In April 1912, he was appointed to serve as chef de cabinet to the Imperial Foreign Minister Count von Berchtold, a post that had gained considerably in significance under his predecessor Count Szapáry.[5] Count von Hoyos quickly became an influential adviser to Berchtold and became the leader of a group of younger diplomats at the Ballhausplatz, referred to as the 'Young Rebels', who favoured a more aggressive foreign policy, as the only recipe to stop the decline of the Dual Monarchy and avoid its disintegration.[6] This policy line would prove fatal during the summer of 1914.

July Crisis

As chef de cabinet, Count von Hoyos was at the centre of decision-making at Ballhausplatz following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914. Together with Count von Forgách, who served as Second Section Chief and was another prominent member of the Young Rebels, he quickly became one of the most vocal pro-war diplomats during the ensuing July Crisis.[7]

Count von Hoyos quickly advocated a firm, tough and confrontational approach towards Serbia. During the ensuing days a general consensus of war with Serbia was achieved in Vienna. Before the assassination, a memorandum calling for a more aggressive foreign policy in the Balkans had been prepared in the Ballhausplatz. This one was now revised under Count von Hoyos' guidance to counselling a military solution. In addition, a letter from Emperor Franz Joseph I to the Kaiser in the same spirit was drafted.[8]

In order to ascertain the position of its ally Germany, Count von Berchtold decided on 4 July to send his chef de cabinet to Berlin to bypass the Ambassador at Berlin Count von Szögyény-Marich, whom he considered "too aged and unimaginative for such an important task".[9] The following day, Count von Hoyos arrived to Berlin with the memorandum and the Emperor's letter to secure German support.[10] While Count von Szögyény-Marich met the Kaiser for lunch at Potsdam, Count von Hoyos met the Under Secretary of State Zimmermann (as Secretary of State von Jagow had just married and was away on his honeymoon). In the evening, Count von Szögyény-Marich cabled about the Kaiser's pledge of "full German backing". Count von Hoyos had received a similar message from Zimmermann during his meeting. The following day the two diplomats met with Chancellor von Bethmann-Hollweg and Zimmermann where the Kaiser's commitments were confirmed. Austria-Hungary had thus received the famous "blank check" for dealing with Serbia.[11] Upon his return to Vienna on 7 July, Count von Hoyos reported back and acted as secretary during the meeting of the Common Ministerial Council the same day as well as on 19 July, when agreement was found on the last details about the note to Serbia.[12]

While it is beyond doubt that Count von Hoyos and others in the Austro-Hungarian leadership not only foresaw but wanted war during the July Crisis, it has, however, been much debated amongst historians as to whether they fully understood the scale of such a war. Some have argued that they considered a Russian intervention as unlikely and that the intention was a limited war, while others have pointed to numerous remarks made during the course of July that undertaking action against Serbia would lead to a European war.[13] However, what is clear is that a Russian intervention was not taken into much consideration. One can, for example, find little if any records of the issue being discussed in the minutes that Count von Hoyos wrote from the two meetings of the Common Ministerial Council in July.[14]

World War I

After the war had begun, Count von Hoyos was relegated to a minor role but remained as chef de cabinet until January 1917, when he was demoted to serve as minister at the newly opened legation at Christiania (now Oslo).[15]

After the fall of the Habsburg empire, he retired from public service and died in Schwertberg on 20 October 1937.


Regarding personal names: Graf is a title, translated as Count, not a first or middle name. The female form is Gräfin.


  • Der deutsch-englische Gegensatz und sein Einfluß auf die Balkanpolitik Österreich-Ungarns, Berlin, Verlag de Gryter, 1922.
  • Weltenwende. Ein Vorschlag zur Lösung der Weltkrise, Vienna, Verlag Jung Österreich, 1931.


  1. ^ Hoyos family
  2. ^ William D. Godsey, Aristocratic Redoubt: The Austro-Hungarian Foreign Office on the Eve of the First World War, West Lafayette, Purdue University Press, 1999, p. 38.
  3. ^ 'Hoyos Alexander Graf', Österreichisches Biographisches Lexikon 1815-1950, vol. 2, Vienna, Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1957, p. 435.
  4. ^ Manfried Rauchensteiner, 'Entfesselung in Wien? Österreich-Ungarns Beitrag zum Ausbruch des Ersten Weltkriegs', in Michael Gehler (ed.), Ungleiche Partner? Österreich und Deutschland in ihrer gegenseitigen Wahrnehmung. Historische Analysen und Vergleiche aus dem 19. und 20. Jahrhundert, Stuttgart, Verlag Steiner, 1996, pp. 355-374.
  5. ^ Godsey, op. cit., p. 12.
  6. ^ Graydon A. Tunstall, Jr, 'Austria-Hungary', in Richard F. Hamilton & Holger H. Herwig (eds.), The Origins of World War I, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2003, p. 125.
  7. ^ Tunstall, op. cit., p. 118.
  8. ^ Clive Ponting, Thirteen days: diplomacy and disaster, London, Pimlico, 2002, p. 76ff.
  9. ^ Tunstall, op. cit., p. 135.
  10. ^ On the Hoyos mission, see Fritz Fellner, 'Die Mission Hoyos', in Wilhelm Alff (ed.), Deutschlands Sonderung von Europa, 1862-1945, Frankfurt am Main, Peter Lang, 1984, pp. 283-316. See also Eric A. Leuer. 'Die Mission Hoyos. Wie österreichisch-ungarische Diplomaten den ersten Weltkrieg begannen', Freiburg i.B., Centaurus Verlag, 2011.
  11. ^ Ponting, op. cit., p. 83ff.
  12. ^ 'Hoyos Alexander Graf', op. cit.
  13. ^ William Jannen, Jr, 'The Austro-Hungarian Decision For War in July 1914', in Samuel R. Williamson, Jr & Peter Pastor (eds.), Essays On World War I: Origins and Prisoners of War, New York, 1983, pp. 55-81.
  14. ^ Tunstall, op. cit., p. 145f.
  15. ^ 'Hoyos Alexander Graf', op. cit.

External links

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Friedrich Graf Szapáry von Muraszombath, Széchysziget und Szapár
Chef de cabinet of the Imperial Foreign Minister
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Austro-Hungarian Minister to Norway
Succeeded by

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