Making History Tasty
Death by history
It was Niall Ferguson no less, the great living historian, whose books hopefully were on our reading list this summer, who said: "It is no coincidence that the most boring teacher...in the Harry Potter books..is Mr Binns...whose lessons on goblin wars were so tedious that he himself died of boredom with out noticing".
History is not just about the Henry’s, I – to whatever. History is about "game-changing" events. Events (so Ferguson) like the Battle of Kahlenberg, Vienna, September 12th, 1683. It was a second attempt by the Ottomans (the first a century earlier) to expand West from Hungary into Habsburg Austria. This time Ottoman Sultan Mehmed IV (1648-87) ordered another mighty army led by Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa to besiege – and very nearly conquer – Vienna. They should have succeeded. The Ottomans had by far the larger fighting force. But events on that day favoured the beleaguered. The battle on Vienna's Kahlenberg hills, that had begun after dawn, was over at dusk. Mustafa retreating back to Hungary, leaving behind in his haste amongst other things the sacks of coffee beans that would spark a coffee tradition.
Riding triumphant out of the battle was a little known French prince: Prince Eugen. Once snubbed by Louis IV (that snub he would bitterly regret), Eugen in his new budding military role found now knew his purpose in life: to drive the Ottoman presence out of the Habsburg Empire. Engaged by the Habsburg Emperor Eugen had fought as part of the Christian Alliance. A European defence patchwork, cobbled together by Christian belief and the power of Pope Innocent’s purse. The last ditch effort to hold Sultan Mehmed IV and the Muslim religion south of the Danube.
Booty brought immense riches
Eugen advanced in time to become(so to speak) the “CEO”, of all Habsburg’s military matters. A military Commander that after a succession of famous battles rid the Ottomans from Austrian Empire’s sphere of influence. A well rewarding venture too. Eugen mopped up booty on the way amassing an immense fortune. He died unmarried, leaving his worldly treasure to a distant niece. To her credit Empress Maria Theresia bought and preserved much of Eugen’s heritage including Schloss Hof.
At Schloss Hof, one of Prince Eugen’s many pleasure palaces, the events memorabilia of of this "game - changing" period of history are preserved & re-lived. This is just the place where we can fall in love with history.
The great teaser question amongst history keen folk is What if? What if the Christian Alliance had not been successful (they were outnumbered..the weaker bet)? Historians tip that Louis IV would have increased his hold on Europe at the expense of the Habsburg Monarchy. History would have taken another turn. And the Ottomans? An ex-Turkish ambassador to Vienna to whom I posed the "What if" question" had an astonishing answer: 'Today Turkey would be in Hungary'. What do you say now?