Adam Zamoyski

Five Shades of Red

For God and Kaiser: The Imperial Austrian Army from 1619 to 1918

By Richard Bassett

Yale University Press 591pp £25 order from our bookshop

Richard Bassett begins this book by ruefully quoting Talleyrand’s quip that ‘Austria has the tiresome habit of always being beaten’, which brings to mind that other unkind saying – that the Italian army only existed in order to provide the Austrians with someone to defeat. He then sets out ‘to explore whether the Habsburgs’ army’s reputation for inefficiency, incompetence, general unreliability, and even cruelty, is at all justified’. Calling to his aid an impressively broad array of sources, he demonstrates with engaging verve that it is not.

On 5 June 1619 the fervently Catholic Archduke Ferdinand was rescued from the Hofburg in Vienna, which had been surrounded by the forces of the Protestant Bohemian nobility, whom he had defied,

Donmar Warehouse


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