Thursday 23rd July 1914 was the day the Austro-Hungarian ministers had decided on for delivering their ultimatum to Serbia – with 48 hours to reply. On that day, Count von Berchtold, the Austro-Hungarian foreign minister, telegraphed to Count Albert von Mensdorff-Pouilly-Dietrichstein, the Austro-Hungarian ambassador at London:
As among the Entente Powers, Great Britain might be most easily led to form an impartial judgment on the step which we are to-day taking at Belgrade, I request Your Excellency in the conversation which you will have on the 24th instant on the occasion when you hand in our circular note at the Foreign Office, to point out among other matters that it would have been within the power of Servia to render less acute the serious steps which she must expect from us, by spontaneously doing what is necessary in order to start an inquiry on Servian soil against the Servian accomplices in the crime of 28th June, and by bringing to light the threads, which, as has. been proved, lead from Belgrade to Servia.
Up to the present time, although a number of notorious indications point to Belgrade, the Servian Government have not taken any steps in this direction; on the contrary, they have attempted to wipe out the existing traces.
Thus, from a telegraphic despatch from our Legation at Belgrade, it is to be gathered that the Servian civil servant Ciganovic, who is compromised by the independent testimony of the affidavits of both criminals, on the day of the outrage was still in Belgrade, and three days afterwards, when his name was mentioned in the papers, had already left the town. As is well known also, the director of the Servian press declared that Ciganovic is completely unknown in Belgrade.
With regard to the short time-limit attached to our demand, this must be attributed to our long experience of the dilatory arts of Servia.
The requirements which we demand that Servia should fulfil, and which indeed contain nothing which is not a matter of course in the intercourse between States which are to live in peace and friendship, cannot be made the subject of negotiations and compromise; and, having regard to our economic interests, we cannot take the risk of a method of political action by which it would be open to Servia at pleasure to prolong the crisis which has arisen.
At six in the evening, Baron Giesl von Gieslingen, the Austro-Hungarian Minister at Belgrade, handed this note – attached to the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum to Serbia – to Doctor Laza Patchou, the Acting Prime Minister of Serbia and Minister for Foreign Affairs:
I have the honour to transmit to Your Excellency herewith the enclosed Note which I have received from my Government, addressed to the Royal Serbian Government.
Doctor Laza Patchou then telegraphed all the Serbian Legations abroad:
The Austro-Hungarian Minister handed me this afternoon at 6 p.m. a note in regard to the Serajevo outrage embodying the demands of the Austro-Hungarian Government, and insisting on a reply from the Serbian Government within two days, i.e., by Saturday, at 6 p.m. He informed me orally that he and his staff would leave Belgrade unless a favourable answer were forthcoming within the stipulated time.
Some of the Ministers being absent from Belgrade the Serbian Government have not as yet come to any decision, but I am in a position to state now that the demands are such that no Serbian Government could accept them in their entirety.
On that day the Russian Chargé d’Affaires at Belgrade telegraphed to Sergei Sazonov, the Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs:
The Austrian Minister, at 6 o’clock this evening, presented an ultimatum from his Government to the Minister of Finance, Patchou, in the absence of Pashitch [Nikola Pašić, the Serbian Prime Minister], requiring the acceptance of the demands contained therein within forty-eight hours. Giesl added verbally that, in the event of failure to accept the note integrally within forty-eight hours, he was under instructions to leave Belgrade with the staff of the legation. Pashitch and the other Ministers, who are away electioneering, have been recalled and are expected at Belgrade to-morrow, Friday, at 10 A.M. Patchou, who communicated to me the contents of the note, solicits the help of Russia and declares that no Servian Government could accept the demands of Austria.
The Russian Chargé d’Affaires at Belgrade sent the Serbian Letter of Ultimatum to Sergei Sazonov, the Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs, with this header:
TEXT of the note presented to the Servian Government by the Austro-Hungarian Minister to-day. [Here follows the text of the note]
According to information collected by the French Ambassador at Vienna, the first intention of the Austro-Hungarian Government been to proceed with the greatest severity against Servia while keeping eight army corps ready to start operations.
The disposition at this moment was more conciliatory; in answer to a question put to him by M. Dumaine, whom I instructed to call the attention of the Austro-Hungarian Government to the anxiety aroused in Europe, Baron Macchio stated to our Ambassador that the tone of the Austrian note, and the demands which would be formulated in it, allow us to count on a peaceful result. In view of the customary procedure of the Imperial Chancery I do not know what confidence ought to be placed in these assurances.
In any case the Austrian note will be presented in a very short space of time. The Servian Minister holds that as M. Pashitch wishes to come to an understanding, he will accept those demands which relate to the punishment of the outrage and to the guarantees for control and police supervision, but that he will resist everything which might affect the sovereignty and sovreighnty and dignity of his country.
In diplomatic circles at Vienna the German Ambassador is in favour of violent measures, while at the same time confesses that the Imperial Chancery is perhaps not entirely in agreement with him on this point; the Russian Ambassador, trusting to assurances which have been given him, has left Vienna, and before his departure confided to M. Dumaine that his Government will not raise any objection to the punishment of the guilty and the dissolution of the revolutionary associations, but that they could not accept requirements which were humiliating to the national sentiment of Servia.
The French Minister at Munich, Henri Allizé, wrote to the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs:
The Bavarian press seems to believe that a peaceful solution of the Austro-Servian incident is not only possible but even probable; on the other hand official circles have for some time been assuming with more or less sincerity an air of real pessimism.
In particular the President of the Council said to me to-day that the Austrian note the contents of which were known to him (dont il avait connaissance) was in his opinion drawn up in terms which could he accepted by Servia, but that none the less the existing situation appeared to him to be very serious.