Alexander, Count of Hoyos

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Alexander Graf von Hoyos
Hoyos, A, street scene5.JPG
Chef de cabinet of the Imperial Foreign Minister
In office
22 April 1912 – 4 January 1917
Preceded byFriedrich Graf Szapáry von Muraszombath, Széchysziget und Szapár
Succeeded byNone
Austro-Hungarian Minister to Norway
In office
14 February 1917 – 2 November 1918
Preceded byNone
Succeeded byNone
Personal details
Born(1876-05-13)13 May 1876
Fiume, Austria-Hungary
(now Croatia)
Died20 October 1937(1937-10-20) (aged 61)
Schwertberg, Austria
Spouse(s)Edmée 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 World War I in 1914. He was the grandson of Robert Whitehead, the inventor of the torpedo.


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

His parents were Georg Anton, Count of 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 Hoyos 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 eldest son of Chancellor Otto von Bismarck.

On 24 April 1913, in Paris, Hoyos married Edmée de Loys-Chandieu (1892–1945), the daughter of Henri, Marquis de Loys-Chandieu, and the couple went on to have four children.[1] Their daughter Melanie Hoyos also married a member of the Bismarck family, Count Gottfried von Bismarck-Schönhausen, and their descendants include Stephanie zu Guttenberg.


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

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

In April 1912, Hoyos was appointed to serve as chef de cabinet to the Imperial Foreign Minister Count Berchtold, a post that had gained considerably in significance under his predecessor Count Szapáry.[5] Hoyos quickly became an influential adviser to Berchtold and the leader of a group of young diplomats at the Ballhausplatz, referred to as the 'Young Rebels', who favoured a more aggressive foreign policy as the only means 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[edit]

As chef de cabinet, 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 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]

It was Friedrich Naumann, a Berlin journalist's idea to contact a junior Ballplatz official in Vienna on 1 July 1914. Hoyos had been sent to Berlin 1908-9 to win German approval of the annexation of Bosnia. Naumann was well-connected enticing Hoyos to believe he could influence the Wilhelmstrasse. He was told of Germany's diplomatic prowess convinced that Britain would not intervene in his mission. So he was surprised to learn Germany found "the necessity of taking action against Serbia", but this was not confirmed by an absent Secretary of State.[8] Hoyos quickly advocated a firm, tough and confrontational approach putting himself at Berchtold's disposal. During the ensuing days a general consensus of war with Serbia was achieved in Vienna, where Conrad expected the Kaiser's backing. Before the assassination, a memorandum calling for a more aggressive foreign policy in the Balkans had been prepared in the Ballplatz. This one was now revised under the Hoyos guidance towards counselling a military solution. In addition, a letter from Emperor Franz Joseph I to the Kaiser in the same spirit was drafted.[9]

In order to ascertain the position of its ally Berchtold decided on 4 July to send his chef de cabinet to Berlin to bypass the Ambassador at Berlin Count Szögyény-Marich, whom he considered "too aged and unimaginative for such an important task".[10] The following day, a Sunday morning Hoyos arrived in Berlin with the memorandum and the Emperor's letter to secure Szogyeny's support.[11] While Szögyény-Marich met the Kaiser for lunch at Potsdam, Hoyos met the Under Secretary of State Zimmermann (as Secretary of State Gottlieb von Jagow had just married and was away on his honeymoon). In the evening, Szögyény-Marich cabled about the Kaiser's pledge of "full German backing". Hoyos had received a similar message from Zimmermann during his meeting. The following day the two diplomats met with Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg and Zimmermann, and the Kaiser's commitments were confirmed. Austria-Hungary had thus received the famous "blank cheque" for dealing with Serbia.[12] Upon his return to Vienna on 7 July, Hoyos reported back to the Ballplatz with Bethmann-Hollweg's oral promise of support.[13] He 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.[14]

While it is beyond doubt that Hoyos and others in the Austro-Hungarian leadership not only foresaw but wanted war during the July Crisis, it has, however, been much debated among 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, known as localisation between Serbia and Austria. While others have pointed to numerous remarks made during the course of July that undertaking action against Serbia would lead to a European war.[15] It is reasoned that 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 Hoyos wrote from the two meetings of the Common Imperial Ministerial Council in July.[16] However, on the 16 July 1914 the Austrian Ambassador in St. Petersburg falsely told the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Sazonov, that Austria was not planning on any measure that might cause a war in the Balkans, so no Russian complaints were made.[17] This in itself undermined the rationale that Austro-Hungary did not consider that a world war was impossible. In fact, by deliberately misrepresenting the existence and planning of a presentation to Serbia of an ultimatum containing “unacceptable demands”, the Austro-Hungary state implicitly knew that a world war would be inevitable, hence the deception during the July Crisis (See 'Contents':- 6 Preparations for the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum).[citation needed]

First World War[edit]

After the war had begun, Hoyos was relegated to a minor role, but he remained as chef de cabinet until January 1917, when he was demoted to serve in Norway as minister at the newly opened legation at Christiania (now Oslo).[18]


After the fall of the Habsburg empire, Hoyos retired from public service and died in Schwertberg on 20 October 1937.[citation needed]


Regarding personal names: Until 1919, Graf was a title, translated as Count, not a first or middle name. The female form is Gräfin. In Germany since 1919, it forms part of family names.


  • 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. ^ conversation, no.3, in Geiss, July 1914
  9. ^ Clive Ponting, Thirteen days: diplomacy and disaster, London, Pimlico, 2002, p. 76ff.
  10. ^ Tunstall, op. cit., p. 135.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ Ponting, op. cit., p. 83ff.
  13. ^ war council in Vienna, Geiss, no.39, vol.1
  14. ^ 'Hoyos Alexander Graf', op. cit.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ Tunstall, op. cit., p. 145f.
  17. ^ Fromkin, 2004 page 175
  18. ^ 'Hoyos Alexander Graf', op. cit.

External links[edit]

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