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Surprise is more valuable than strength.

–Franz Ferdinand

Archduke Franz Ferdinand is Alek's father. He married Sophie Chotek in a morganatic marriage, which does not allow Alek to inherit any of his father's titles and hereditary lands. In the series, he and his wife are poisoned in Sarajevo as part of a German plot. Franz Ferdinand was the heir to Austro-Hungarian throne, which he was set to inherit from his uncle, Emperor Franz Joseph. Another uncle was Maximilian I of Mexico. As in real life, Franz Ferdinand was an avid hunter and collector of antique weapons.

Franz Ferdinand leaves Alek twelve bars of gold in his safe as part of his inheritance. He also leaves him an antique sword, which Alek uses to get rid of a flare.

Alek remembers many of Franz Ferdinand's watchwords throughout the series, including "Surprise is more valuable than strength." Alek also remembers Franz Ferdinand's coin collecting hobby.

Alek tells Deryn the story of his parents meeting when Sophie was a lady-in-waiting to the Princess Isabella of Croÿ. Franz Ferdinand kept (and accidentally lost) a locket with Sophie's picture in it, and, when Isabella found the locket she was upset to see one of her ladies-in-waiting instead of one of her marriagable daughters.

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