Copyright © Australian War Diary (World War One)

 

 

Thursday, 2 July 1914 (continued)

Apart from Freyesleben in Sydney, Austria-Hungary had a vice-consul, A. A. Rankin, in Newcastle (a local who was also vice-consul for Denmark); two consuls, F. M. Macard in Adelaide and E. B. Wareham (a local, senior employee of the Adelaide Steamship Co.) in Brisbane respectively, and an acting honorary consul, Gustav Meyer, in Melbourne. One of their less public, official tasks, like the Empire's other consuls around the world where there were communities of Slavs who had migrated from the Empire, was to report to Vienna on pan-slav political agitation, which in Australia was slight.












Freyesleben had received from Vienna a brief telegram which he forwarded to the other consuls and released to the press: 'Erzherzog thronfolger franz ferdinand und Hoechatdessen Gemahlin Samstag in Sarajevo attenuat Eriegen.'  With the Commonwealth government being based in Melbourne, Sydney-based Freyesleben was not contacted by Australian authorities, even separately by the new and normally independently-minded NSW Governor, Sir Gerald Strickland. In Melbourne, the honorary consul accredited to the Victorian government had offices at 128 William Street, only six blocks straight down Bourke Street from parliament. This honorary consul, then temporally acting as consul-general, was a very colourful character.















In 1897 Meyer unsuccessfully sued a policeman for wrongful arrest over presenting an alleged false cheque. Next year he returned to Europe to raise further funds. On his return in June 1900, he discovered Clara had moved out of their home to live with a married couple as she prepared for her daughter's wedding. When he tried to reconcile with her, she told him his return was 'inopportune', due to the coming nuptials, and that she never wanted to see him again. She later returned to England. His personal position did not improve: in 1905 he was a witness in a laughable, unsuccessful attempt by a commission agent, 'Syd' Smith, to gain £5000 from a deceased drunk's estate. Finally, in 1908 he was unsuccessful in his petition for divorce from Clara on grounds of desertion when the judge was sceptical of 'Syd' Smith's new testimony that she had told him she did not know or care where her husband was and was not coming back. The court revelation Meyer was living in a hotel with a women 'as man and wife' was also held against him.


So, the sudden illness, resignation and death in mid-1913 of Georg Stoving, Austria-Hungary's long-time Melbourne consul, a well-respected German wool-buyer for a large Franco-German firm and member of the Melbourne Club, was a boon for Meyer. He

was appointed in April and was able immediately to discharge his bankruptcy.


When news of Sarajevo broke, Meyer told the Australian press he had actually known the archduke during

their college days and had spent some time with him on the 1893 hunting trip. He provided Punch magazine

with a photo of the archduke as a child. He also claimed that he, by chance, had encountered the Archduke

in 1912 while holidaying in the Tyrol and that he expressed his 'delight with Australia and its people', adding

that he admired the climate and scenery as well as its 'free happy life' and 'democratic element'.

Prime Minister Cook, before he caught the train to Sydney, chose not to telegram Freyesleben, who was the

consul accredited to the Commonwealth, but did contact Meyer briefly by telephone to express his

government's condolences. The Victorian premier, Alexander Peacock, sent a brief letter to Meyer.

expressing the sympathy of his ministry to the 'nation' of Austria-Hungary.


In Adelaide, Fritz Mattias Macard had been acting as consul since the extended leave of absence in Vienna in

1912 of the incumbent Otto von Drehnen. Born in Hannover, Macard, served an apprenticeship in Hamburg's and Liverpool's merchant trade and migrated as a young man to South Australia in the 1890s. There, he ran an import business, was active in the city's German community and married the daughter of a successful English-born shoe manufacturer. In the days after the assassination, he received at the Leigh Street consulate a number of persons, both from the Germanic and wider Adelaide communities, expressing their sympathies. The Governor, Sir Henry Galway, without consulting his ministers or the Colonial Office had his secretary write and personally deliver a letter of condolences which read:


"His Excellency the Governor desires me to inform you that he has learnt with profound regret of the "cruel and cowardly" crime, which resulted in the deaths of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his consort. His Excellency would particularly extend the expression of his respectful sympathy to the aged and illustrious Emperor, and to the Austrian-Hungarian nation at the great loss which they have sustained under such sad and tragic circumstances, and wishes me to express to you the abhorrence with which he, in common with all right-minded persons, views the dastardly and cowardly act which deprived your country of the Heir Presumptive."


So, as the working week ended in Australia, all sentiment was in sympathy with Austria-Hungary. No one suggested the Serbia government was involved and there was no word from the Serbian consul.

 


122 william

leith st


Clara Merivale, Meyer's estranged actress wife, 1882, at the peak of  her London fame.


Born Gustavus Marius (or Maria) Meyer (or Mayer) in Vienna, variously reported as in either 1856 or 1863, he at some point migrated to Melbourne. Around 1889 he started to work as theatre manager at the Opera House for the well-known, English-born operetta actress, Clara Merivale (married name, Curtis). Divorced, with a daughter by that marriage, she married Meyer in 1890 in Carlton, and soon after he advanced her a large sum to lease the Opera House and launch her own company. Within a year it had failed and both applied for insolvency: her's was admitted but his stood aside.


Struggling financially, Meyer was sued for failure to pay for groceries. In 1893 he went to Coolgardie where he worked as a mining engineer on the goldfields. He returned to her in 1896 without having secured the hoped for fortune. Later that year, now a mercantile agent, Meyer went to Europe 'on important business', as he later told the divorce court, whereby he raised £3000, sending Clara a third for the Opera House lease. He returned only to see the venture fail again. ​​The marriage now deteriorated rapidly.



The Austro-Hungarian consul in Auckland was Eugen Langguth. Born in Wertheim, southern Germany, he arrived in New Zealand in 1884 at age 24 years and teamed up with Carl Seegner, 12-years older  and also from southern Germany, via Paris, London and South America. The two immediately set up a merchant and import company in Customs Street. Both married and raised their families there, with Langguth residing in Jermyn street. In 1892 Seegner was appointed as the new German consul, succeeding Hermann Brown, who had departed for England. Langguth sometimes acted in Seegner's post and also for Austria-Hungary at the same time, until he was confirmed in the latter post in 1898. The New Zealand government did not contact him over the assassination although one local wrote a letter of sympathy which was reported in the press.


Gustavus Marius Meyer