Fall of Eagles

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Fall of Eagles
Fall of Eagles title card.jpg
GenreSerial drama
Created byJohn Elliot
Narrated byMichael Hordern
Country of originUnited Kingdom
No. of episodes13
Production
Producer(s)Stuart Burge
Running time50 to 55 minutes
Release
Original networkBBC1
Original release15 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 of 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.

Overview[edit]

The series tells the story of the final decades of three great empires brought to an inevitable demise by history, each of which used an eagle in their heraldry. The central theme is the effect of centuries of despotism, where a continual lack of social reform, and the devastating effect of World War I caused the clouds of revolution to start forming.[1] It commences in the aftermath of the Revolutions of 1848 and continues to the Armistice of 11 November 1918, covering about 70 years of history in 13 episodes.[2] The episodes are divided between the three empires, namely: Austria (episodes 1, 4 & 10), Germany (episodes 2, 3 & 13), and Russia (episodes 5–12).

Episodes[edit]

No. Title Time period
1"Death Waltz"1853–1860
Franz Josef has been Austrian emperor since 1848, yet he remains unmarried five years later. His mother, Archduchess Sophie, is determined to ensure the Habsburg line and favours her niece Helene as the future empress. However, Franz has other ideas when he prefers Helene's 15-year-old sister Elisabeth. However, the young Bavarian princess struggles to deal with her new position as empress of Austria, motherhood, and with her domineering mother-in-law. Endeavouring to create her own space, she re-friends her old Hungarian mentor Count Majlath, and begins an unwelcome fixation with his country.
2"The English Princess"1858–1871
In the hope of promoting a liberal and united Germany, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert arrange for their eldest daughter Victoria ("Vicky") to marry Prince Frederick ("Fritz") of the Kingdom of Prussia. However, despite her love for the heir apparent, and her growing family, the British princess is unprepared for the constraints her new life in Berlin, where her liberal views, and influence over her husband, clash with those of Otto von Bismarck, and the Prussian doctrine of iron and blood. Bismarck wins influence over the Kaiser, and surprises Europe with swift victories during the decisive Austro-Prussian War and Franco-Prussian War.
3"The Honest Broker"1887–1890
With Germany united under Prussia, Bismarck seeks a stabilising alliance with the Austrians and Russians through the League of the Three Emperors. His plans also extend to influencing the Kaiser's grandson Wilhelm. In 1888 Wilhelm I and then his successor Frederick III, die (the Year of the Three Emperors) whereby Wilhelm—now Kaiser Wilhelm II—rapidly assumes the throne; Bismarck is forced to resign when his policies and political style clash with those of the young emperor. The ageing Chancellor seeks support from Vicky, but she spurns him, and blames his meddling for the estrangement between her and her son.
4"Requiem for a Crown Prince"1889
On 30 January 1889 tragedy strikes the House of Habsburg when Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria-Hungary and his young mistress Baroness Mary Vetsera are found dead at the hunting lodge at Mayerling in the Vienna Woods, 24 kilometres southwest of the capital, in an apparent murder-suicide. In Vienna, and at Mayerling, imperial officials contrive to hide the true events to prevent a massive public scandal, misleading the Emperor and Empress about the true nature of the deaths. Rudolph's letters and the report by Professor Widerhoffer finally reveal the truth to the royal couple. The episode, narrated in hindsight, ends with news of the assassination of the Empress in Geneva in 1898.
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 mother's disapproval, he is resolved to marry Princess Alix of Hesse-Darmstadt, the only seeming suitable match. Travelling to Germany, he is supported in this by his relatives, including his cousin Kaiser Wilhelm and Alix's grandmother, the ageing Queen Victoria. Meanwhile, the autocratic conservatism of the Imperial Government is breeding discontent within the factories, under the aegis of the revolutionary Vladimir Lenin.
6"Absolute Beginners"1903
Nicholas has now been Tsar for nine years, but refuses to share his absolute authority with a parliament. Now married and in London, Lenin is founding his own, more radical, brand of Marxism and manoeuvres to divide the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party and its publication Iskra from his primary rival Julius Martov. He befriends Leon Trotsky, and despite ill health, at the second RSDLP Congress he single-mindedly moves to consolidate control. One by one, moderates and liberals are side-lined or expelled, leaving the party split into Bolsheviks and Mensheviks. Meeting at the grave of Karl Marx, many former comrades bid him farewell.
7"Dearest Nicky"1904–1905
Nicholas is pre-occupied by strikes and the humiliating war with Japan, the continual unsolicited advice (and gifts) of his cousin, the Kaiser, and the health of his only son Alexei. 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 bloody demonstration led by police spy and priest Georgy Gapon. Nicholas, however, is convinced of his people's patience and loyalty. Wilhelm attempts to forge an alliance with Russia; Nicholas, considering Germany's assistance, is willing to sign, but his ministers insist they must first show it to France for consideration.
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 seems untrustworthy, and 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. Nevertheless, with unrest fermenting and the memory of Bloody Sunday still fresh, he is appointed after seeking additional authority from the Tsar. Nicholas grants some concessions, including the creation of the Duma, as Rachkovsky begins using his forces in a deadly purge of troublemakers and revolutionaries in St. Petersburg and beyond.
9"Dress Rehearsal"1908–1909
Britain's King Edward VII makes a visit to the Royal Russian yacht to discuss an alliance with Russia. Meanwhile, Russia's Foreign Minister Alexander Izvolsky, begins intriguing to have the Bosphorus opened to the Black Sea Fleet, preferring access to the Dardanelles over guaranteeing Serbian sovereignty against Austria in the Balkans. He quickly finds himself outplayed by Alois Lexa von Aehrenthal when Austria rapidly annexes the Turkish territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, precipitating the Bosnian crisis. In its wake, and with the sting of the loss to Japan still fresh, Russia is again outwitted and embarrassed by diplomatic intrigues and forces beyond its borders
10"Indian Summer of an Emperor"1914
Franz Josef fears for Austria-Hungary's future in the hands of his reform-minded nephew and heir-presumptive Franz Ferdinand, especially given the time he spends with Kaiser Wilhelm. However, he soon gets news of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand and his lower-ranked wife, Sophie Chotek, in Sarajevo. Initially he accepts the "providence" of the event, and refuses calls to mobilise the army and to punish Serbia. However, the Kaiser quickly insists on immediate and decisive action against Serbia, dismissing the preparedness and will of Russia, and downplaying the military threat from France, setting a chain of events in motion that leads to the outbreak of World War I.
11"Tell the King the Sky is Falling"1914–1916
With the resolve and morale of the Russian army plummeting, Nicholas decides to leave the capital to take personal command of the army, leaving Alexandra behind as his eyes and ears in Petrograd. His son Alexei soon joins him, but his frail constitution soon leads to another health scare. Alexandra, becoming increasingly unpopular and insecure, has come to rely heavily on the advice and cures of faith healer Grigori Rasputin, who also advises the Empress on which religious people should be in government. As a result, Alexander Protopopov is appointed as a minister, but his ineptitude leads other politicians, such as Mikhail Rodzianko and Alexander Trepov, to scheme for change.
12"The Secret War"1917
As World War I continues, Kaiser Wilhelm, tiring from his responsibilities, allows Ludendorff, Hindenburg, Admiral von Holtzendorff, and Bethmann-Hollweg to propose riskier strategies for 'total victory' (such as unrestricted submarine warfare against neutral shipping). With Rasputin now dead, Alexander Kerensky incites open revolt in the Duma, who support his insistence on the abdication of the Tsar. The Kaiser, fearful of creating a "Bolshevik nemesis", reluctantly allows Lenin and his compatriots to travel through Germany from exile in Switzerland. With the help of industrialist Dr Helphand, the Russians finally arrive to a heroic homecoming in St. Petersburg.
13"End Game"1918
With Franz Joseph now dead, and the Romanovs murdered by the Bolsheviks, Kaiser Wilhelm is the lone eagle still standing. German troops move west from the now peaceful Russian front, but the Spring Offensive fails, with the Allies making surprising advances across France and Belgium. Wilhelm's optimism of his soldier's fighting will is not fully shared by the General Staff, particularly given the desperate erosion of the home front. Wilhelm's cousin Prince Max is made Chancellor as a concession to reform, but the change only hastens the clamour for change. The 1918 German revolution finally forces the Kaiser's abdication, and he flees to exile in the Netherlands.

Cast[edit]

Cast, in order of first appearance, and sorted by episode and empire. The narrator of the series was Michael Hordern.

Music[edit]

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.

Reception[edit]

One positive review of the series states that "This ambitious series captivates the audience by depicting the years of revolution, in which the well cemented monarchies of central and eastern Europe slowly disintegrate. However, the show does not attach any sentiments with royalty or the happenings in wake of its collapse."[3]

Media[edit]

Fall of Eagles was released on video and DVD in autumn 2004 in the United Kingdom, with the release including a photo gallery and a comprehensive 40-page historical notes booklet written by Andy Priestner providing further details on the historical events and characters in the series. It includes new interviews with Gayle Hunnicutt (The Golden Bowl, Dallas, The Martian Chronicles), Charles Kay (Edge of Darkness, To Serve Them All My Days) and director David Cunliffe (The Onedin Line, The Sandbaggers, Victoria and Albert).[4] It was later released in May 2006 in the United States,[1] without the companion booklet.

A separate book based on the series titled The Fall of Eagles: The Death of the Great European Dynasties (ISBN 9780340216415) by Cyrus Leo Sulzberger II[5] was first published by Crown in 1981.[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Burge, Stuart (2 May 2006), Fall of Eagles, Koch Vision, retrieved 11 December 2017
  2. ^ "Fall of Eagles: First Thoughts". An Historian Goes to the Movies. 13 June 2017. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  3. ^ TV.com. "The Fall of Eagles". TV.com. Retrieved 17 December 2017.
  4. ^ "Fall of Eagles on DVD and Video (starring Patrick Stewart, Gayle Hunnicutt and Charles Kay)". survivorstvseries.com. Retrieved 17 December 2017.
  5. ^ "The Fall of Eagles". goodreads.com. Retrieved 17 December 2017.
  6. ^ "The Fall of Eagles by Sulzberger C L – AbeBooks". abebooks.com. Retrieved 17 December 2017.

External links[edit]