874.001 F 37/44½

The Ambassador in Austria-Hungary (Penfield) to the Secretary of State

My Dear Mr. Secretary: King Ferdinand of Bulgaria has been in Vienna just a week today. His Apostolic Majesty Francis Joseph had made this astute Balkan ruler an honorary Field Marshal, and etiquette demanded that he come to thank in person the venerable ruler of Austria-Hungary.

I learn by underground wireless that the visitation had more to it than the ceremonious giving of thanks for the Marshal’s baton, very much more. Only on the day of the visitor’s arrival was he the guest of the Emperor. The rest of the time he has been at the Vienna palace of his brother, Prince Philip of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. The function at Schönbrunn was of the conventional character, with the usual dejeuner, and the usual court officials present. The conventional decorations were conferred back and forth, the town was beflagged, and everything bore the impress of perfunctoriness.

I am assured however that the event lacked the usual attractive character of a royal visitation, and there was no warmth or enthusiasm observable anywhere in official circles.

Ferdinand has never been liked by Austrians, who believe that his shrewdness at times borders on sharpness of practice. Certain Vienna grandees claim that Ferdinand has always bested the Government of Francis Joseph, and that he is so shifty in his opinions and character as to be called the “Weathercock of Balkan diplomacy.”

The real purpose of the King’s visit is the parceling of Servia, and I have been favored from a dependable quarter with information as to Ferdinand’s programme—which is to help himself to two-thirds of the conquered country, permitting Austria-Hungary to possess the Danubian section with a hinterland amounting approximately to practically a third of King Peter’s former territory. The Sandjak of Novi Bazaar also falls to Austria-Hungary by the programme agreed in principle between the Ballplatz and the visiting sovereign. When in the pourparlers it was hinted that Ferdinand was hoping to receive a share greater than had been expected, Ferdinand’s negotiators insisted that had Bulgaria not entered the war at the psychological moment Serbia would not have been conquered. And, besides, as the German Emperor was waiving his rights in the parceling [Page 653] of the conquered soil, Ferdinand, likewise a German prince, felt a moral right to any portion that Kaiser William might have been entitled to.

It looks as if Ferdinand’s scheme for apportioning Servia will prevail.

Another mission of the Bulgarian ruler in Vienna presumably was the propitiation at long range of the Pope. It was the solemn promise of Ferdinand to his first wife on her deathbed that the Crown Prince Boris should be brought up in the Roman Catholic faith. The star of Russia in those days loomed brightly over the Balkans, and Ferdinand shocked the Catholic world by causing his heir to embrace the Orthodox faith, and especially did he shock the Holy Father and His Apostolic Majesty Francis Joseph, and all of his wife’s powerful relatives.

During his sojourn in Vienna Ferdinand had the Papal Nuncio (a newly-created Cardinal, soon to return to Rome) celebrate a private mass for him, and rewarded this ecclesiastieo-diplomatic personage by giving him a high Bulgarian order set in brilliants. Sapient persons claim to perceive signs that Boris’s conversion from the religion of Russia may be looked for at no distant time, and further that a consort for the heir to the Bulgarian throne may be sought among the Archduchesses of Austria, of whom there are eight or ten charming girls in sight with no takers.

It was an unfortunate circumstance that a sister of Ferdinand’s deceased wife is the Archduchess Zita, now the Crown Princess of Austria-Hungary. It is court gossip that from the heir to the Hapsburg crown and his consort the visiting monarch had a reception not remarkable for its cordiality.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I am favored with advance information that the Austro-Hungarian Government has decided to immediately repatriate 10,000 Russian war prisoners whose homes are in that part of Russia now under the military rule of Germany and Austria. The purpose of this is to conserve the food of Austria, and to return these men to their homes in time to plant crops for the coming season.

It was most kind of you to order three newspapers to be sent to me through the State Department pouch. One of them—the Springfield Republican—has never come. Hence I am wondering if you would let me substitute the New York Sun, daily and Sunday, for the Springfield Republican?

I am [etc.]

Frederic C. Penfield