On July 24, 1914, Count von Mensdorff, Austro-Hungarian Ambassador, communicated the text of the ultimatum issued by Austria to Serbia to Sir Edward Grey, British Foreign Secretary, and Sir Edward expressed his shock at its exceptionally harsh terms. Grey took the matter to Cabinet later the same day – it was a ‘rude awakening’ for ministers, who, up to then, had been preoccupied with the Ulster crisis. Having secured the Cabinet’s approval, and following precedents established during earlier Balkan crises, Grey began to explore the possibilities for mediation. He proposed that the four ‘disinterested’ powers – Britain, France, Italy and Germany should intervene if trouble between Russia and Austria escalated. Grey also pressed Austria to extend the time limit of two days regarding the ultimatum.
A document which shows the sincerity of Grey in making his proposal for collective mediation by ‘disinterested’ powers is the telegraph message that he sent to Sir Horace Rumbold, British Ambassador to Germany, on 24 July, shown below: