Leopold Graf Berchtold von und zu Ungarschitz, Frättling und Püllütz
or Count Leopold Berchtold was born into a wealthy noble family. He studied law and joined the Austro-Hungarian foreign service in 1893. He married Countess Ferdinanda Károlyi, the daughter of one of the richest aristocrats in Hungary, in Budapest and their combined fortunes made him one of the wealthiest men in the empire. He served at the embassies in Paris (1894), London (1899) and St. Petersburg (1903). In 1906 he was named Ambassador to Russia.
In February 1912, Count Berchtold was appointed as his successor and thus became, at the age of 49, the youngest foreign minister in Europe. The Balkan Wars of 1912-1913 had Austro-Hungary pursuing a hard-line policy and flirting with the idea of war against Serbia. It managed to prevent Serbia from securing an outlet to the Adriatic Sea by support given to the creation of Albania but Russian influence in the area remained strong among Balkan nationalists and supporters of Pan Slavism. Following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand at Sarajevo in June 1914, Count Berchtold seized the opportunity to launch punitive action against Serbia and deal the country a mortal blow. After diplomacy failed, the Austro-Hungarian government made a decision to enter a state of war with Serbia on July 28, 1914.
Once the war commenced, Italy’s role was a questionable problem. The Italians wanted certain territorial concessions for their participation. The Austro-Hungarian government was dead set against any Italian demands and were ready to go to war with Italy over it. But Brechtold has learned that Italy has obtained vague promises of compensations in South Tyrol from Germany. Under this German pressure and wishing to avoid a two-front war on its borders, Berchtold sends out messages indicating that he was ready to cede the Trentino and parts of the Albanian coastline to Italy. When the ruling cabinent members of the Austro-Hungarian government find out, they are enraged.
On January 13, 1915 Austro-Hungarian Imperial Foreign Minister Count Brechtold has been forced to resign his post. He replacement has been named, Count Stephan Burián von Rajecz.