Fall of Eagles

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Fall of Eagles
Genre Serial drama
Created by John Elliot
Narrated by Michael Hordern
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of episodes 13
Producer(s) Stuart Burge
Running time 50 to 55 minutes
Original network BBC1
Original release 15 March – 7 June 1974

Fall of Eagles is a 13-part British television drama aired by the BBC in 1974. The series was created by John Elliot and produced by Stuart Burge.

The series portrays historical events from 1848 to 1918, dealing with the ruling dynasties Austria-Hungary (the Habsburgs), Germany (the Hohenzollerns), and Russia (the Romanovs).

The scriptwriters were Keith Dewhurst, John Elliot, Trevor Griffiths, Elizabeth Holford, Ken Hughes, Troy Kennedy Martin, Robert Muller, Jack Pulman, David Turner and Hugh Whitemore.


# Title Time period
1 "Death Waltz" 1853–1860
Franz Josef has been emperor since 1848 when he was eighteen, yet he remains unmarried. His mother, Archduchess Sophie, is determined to ensure the Habsburg line and favours her niece Helene as the future empress. Franz, however, has other ideas when he prefers Helene's 15-year-old sister Elisabeth. However, the teenaged Bavarian princess finds herself ill-equipped to deal with her new position as empress of Austria and with her domineering mother-in-law.
2 "The English Princess" 1858–1871
In the hope of promoting a liberal, united Germany, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert arrange for their eldest daughter Victoria ("Vicky") to marry Prince Frederick ("Fritz") of Prussia. However, despite her love for "Fritz," the British princess is unprepared for her new life in Germany, where her liberal views clash with the up and coming "Iron Chancellor," Otto von Bismarck, and the Prussian doctrine of iron and blood.
3 "The Honest Broker" 1887–1890
With Bismarck's goal of a unified Germany realized, he seeks an alliance with the Austrians and Russians through the League of the Three Emperors to maintain the peace of Europe. His plans also extend to Fritz and Vicky's son Wilhelm, who has become estranged from his parents. Unfortunately, events will prove fatal for Bismarck as, first Wilhelm I and then his successor Frederick III (Fritz), die and the imperious Wilhelm—now Kaiser Wilhelm II—assumes the throne; Bismarck is forced to resign when his policies clash with those of the young Kaiser. The elderly Chancellor seeks support from Vicky but she blames him for the estrangement between mother and son.
4 "Requiem for a Crown Prince" 1889
Tragedy besets the House of Habsburg when Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria-Hungary and his young mistress Mary Vetsera are found dead at the hunting lodge at Mayerling in an apparent murder-suicide. In Vienna, the imperial court contrives to hide the true events to cover up what may be a potential public scandal.
5 "The Last Tsar" 1894
Tsar Alexander III doubts the ability of his son and heir-apparent, Nicholas, to inherit the Russian throne. The young Tsarevich is similarly apprehensive, and despite his longstanding affair with St. Petersburg ballerina Mathilde Kschessinska, and his parents' disapproval, is determined to marry Princess Alix of Hesse-Darmstadt. He is supported in this by his cousin Kaiser Wilhelm and Alix's grandmother, the ageing Queen Victoria. Meanwhile, the autocratic conservatism of the Imperial Government is breeding revolutionaries.
6 "Absolute Beginners" 1903
Nicholas II has been Tsar for nine years. In Russia, the question is no longer whether revolution, but how and led by whom? In London, Vladimir Lenin is developing his own, more radical, brand of Marxism and manoeuvres to divide the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party from his rival Julius Martov.
7 "Dearest Nicky" 1904–1905
While Nicholas is pre-occupied by war with Japan, the birth and health of his only son Alexei, and the continual unsolicited advice of his cousin, the Kaiser, a rising tide of discontent among St. Petersburg's working class leads to the assassination of the interior minister Vyacheslav von Plehve and then to a disastrous demonstration led by police spy and priest Georgy Gapon. Nicholas, however, is convinced of his peoples' loyalty. Wilhelm attempts to convince Nicholas to sign a friendly alliance through private correspondence; Nicholas is eager to sign (given that Germany helped Russia during the war and France didn't) but his ministers insist he cannot break his pact with France.
8 "The Appointment" 1905
When Grand Duke Sergei is murdered, Nicholas dismisses his Police Chief and considers Pyotr Rachkovsky as a suitable replacement, even though he is rumoured to use agent provocateurs. Both Sergei Witte and Empress Alexandra also have grave concerns about him and his methods, albeit for different reasons.
9 "Dress Rehearsal" 1908–1909
Britain's King Edward VII makes a visit to Russia to consummate an alliance with Russia. Meanwhile, Russia's Foreign Minister Alexander Izvolsky, who has his sights set narrowly on the Dardanelles and the freedom of the Russian fleet rather than peace in the Balkans, finds himself outmanoeuvred by Austrian Foreign Minister Alois Lexa von Aehrenthal when Austria annexes Bosnia and Herzegovina, precipitating a diplomatic crisis.
10 "Indian Summer of an Emperor" 1914
Franz Josef fears for Austria-Hungary's future in the hands of his nephew and heir-presumptive Franz Ferdinand, especially since he spends too much time with Kaiser Wilhelm. However, he soon gets news of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie Chotek, in Sarajevo, setting a chain of events in motion that lead to the outbreak of World War I.
11 "Tell the King the Sky is Falling" 1914–1916
While the Russian army 'drowns in its own blood' against the German Army, and Russian politicians Alexander Trepov, Alexander Protopopov, and Mikhail Rodzianko thrash about, Nicholas decides to leave the capital to take personal command of the army, leaving Alexandra as his eyes and ears in Petrograd. However, Alexandra has come to rely heavily on the advice of faith healer Grigori Rasputin.
12 "The Secret War" 1917
As World War I rages, Kaiser Wilhelm- realizing his limitations- delegates more of his decision-making to Ludendorff, Hindenburg and Admiral von Holtzendorff, who enact various risky strategies for Germany's 'total victory'. Alexander Kerensky incites revolution in Russia, and Lenin and his comrades are stuck in Switzerland. Germany, however, may prove to be an unexpected ally in ending their exile, with the help of Dr Helphand.
13 "End Game" 1918
Franz Joseph of Austria has died, and Nicholas and his family are murdered by the Bolsheviks. After Germany's last 1918 spring offensive, America enters the war and British tanks make advances across France. Kaiser Wilhelm's optimism is not shared by generals Hindenburg and Ludendorff. However, the 1918 mutiny forces the Kaiser's abdication and he flees to exile in the Netherlands - the last Eagle to fall.



The music accompanying the main title and credits is the Trauermarsch (Funeral March), the first movement of Mahler's Symphony No. 5. The closing theme music is the central section from the first movement of Shostakovich's Symphony No. 6.

DVD release[edit]

Fall of Eagles was released on video and DVD in 2004 in the United Kingdom, with the release including a comprehensive viewing notes booklet written by Andy Priestner providing further details on the historical events and characters in the series and new interviews with Gayle Hunnicutt, Charles Kay and David Cunliffe (one of the directors). The DVD was also released in May 2006 in the United States, without the companion booklet.

External links[edit]