ASSASSINATION OF FRANZ FERDINAND - JUNE 1914
The doomed royal couple slipped into Sarajevo on the eve of their death to explore the city centre and perhaps buy a new rug! The Bosnian capital was considered an exotic city as it sits near the junction of Europe and Asia.
This was as informal a visit as royalty can make and they browsed in a carpet shop. They found time to send a telegram to their son who had just received his school exam results and dined on trout, chicken, lamb and ice cream. It was probably a cheerless meal as the often repeated warnings of danger went round and round in their heads.
Image: Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his family photographed in 1910.
Image: Archduke Franz Ferdinand with some of the 272,000 animals he killed.
Franz Ferdinand’s lust for blood may have brought about his own demise. As a keen hunter, the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire would have been aware of the legend that whoever kills a white stag will bring death on his own family within a year.
The Archduke was an avid and indiscriminate huntsman and on his frequent hunts, an army of beaters would drive animals towards his guns. In one day he is credited with 2,140 kills and according to his own records, he shot well over a quarter of a million animals in his lifetime. On one fateful day in 1913 he shot and killed a rare white stag and on 28th June 1914, he and his wife were themselves gunned down in Sarajevo.
The first full size statue of Gavrilo Princip was unveiled on 28th June in Serbia’s capital city, Belgrade. This was one of a number of events to commemorate the radical Serb’s double murder that ultimately led to the start of the First World War and the destruction of Europe. Princip’s assassination of Franz Ferdinand and Countess Sophie was also marked by concerts, exhibitions and the issue of a special silver coin.
The Graf & Stift car in which Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were murdered has been on display in Vienna. The heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary travelled in this vehicle during the fateful visit to Sarajevo in June 1914. For many visitors the car’s most remarkable feature is its number plate - A11 11 18 - which appears to predict the end of the conflict. The armistice began 11th November 1918 and, in another remarkable coincidence, the hour that the guns stopped firing was 11.00 am!
A Final Shopping Trip on the Eve of their Death
On This Day - 100 Years Ago - 27th June 1914
Franz Ferdinand Paid a Deer Price
Serbia Commemorates a Hero
'Archduke's' Number Plate Predicts End of WW1
Six terrorist affiliated to the Serbian run ‘Black Hand’ took up position along the road. At 10:10 local time (09:10 UK time) the first blow was struck by Nedeliko Cabrinovic who threw a grenade at the Archduke’s car as it rolled through Sarajevo. There was some confusion as to whether the Archduke deflected the bomb himself or whether it bounced off the car. While he was fortunate, the same cannot be said to those following. The bomb had a 10 second fuse and detonated under the fourth car in the motorcade causing some casualties amongst spectators as well as injuring two members of the imperial party. The Archduke continued to the city hall where a flustered mayor read out a welcome speech only to have the irony of his words thrown back at him. Plans for the visit were hurriedly changed to allow time for Franz Ferdinand and Sophie to visit the injured in hospital. Meanwhile Gavrilo Princip headed off, convinced that the assassination attempt had failed. He was standing chatting at the roadside when the royal car pulled up alongside. There had been a call to the driver that he was following the prearranged route rather than the road to the hospital. The car had to be turned around but with no reverse gear, this meant it had to be pushed. Faced with stationary targets, Princip had a simple task and recalled ....
“I aimed at the Archduke … I do not remember what I thought at that moment. I only know that I fired twice or perhaps several times, without knowing whether I had hit or missed”.
At 11:00 local time (10:00 UK time), Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Countess Sophie, were shot and killed. The Serbian teenager, Gavrilo Princip, was arrested and with international tension at an all-time high, serious repercussions were expected.
“...in the hope that this would provoke an incident which might provide Austria with the excuse for war with Serbia”.
Leo Pfeffer believed that the Archduke had been sent to Sarajevo....
Crowds lined the streets of Sarajevo (the Bosnian capital) for the state visit of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and his wife the Countess Sophie. Despite warnings that a terrorist cell was planning an attack, security along the route was lax with barely one policeman per 100m. The superstitious Archduke had taken some steps to protect himself by wearing a jacket that he believed to be bullet proof, as well as 7 lucky charms to ward off evil spirits. Austrian soldiers might have offered more protection. There were plenty of troops in the area carrying out military manoeuvres and they could have been deployed to protect the Archduke. Pleas for the visit to be cancelled were made by the city mayor who told his Imperial masters that he did not want blamed if anything went wrong. Officials in Vienna assured him that they took full responsibility – a fact that prompted sharp comment from the judge at Princip’s trial.
The Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand
On This Day - 100 Years Ago - 28th June 1914
In neighbouring Bosnia, where the murder took place, another statue has been erected in a mostly Serbian area of Sarajevo. In general, Bosnians have a different view of events and Princip’s story is told in school textbooks in a more neutral manner. On 28th April 1918, Princip died of tuberculosis early in his prison sentence. Had he been a month older at the time of the trial he would have faced the death penalty.