Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Este, Assassination, Bosnia and Herzegovina, causes of World War I, Crown Prince Rudolph of Austria, Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary, Gavrilo Princip, Imperial Germany, Mary Vetsera, Sarajevo, Serbia, Sophie Chotek, The Black Hand
Archduke Franz Ferdinand Charles Ludwig Joseph Maria of Austria-Este (December 18, 1863 – June 28, 1914) was the heir presumptive to the throne of Austria-Hungary. His assassination in Sarajevo was the most immediate cause of World War I.
Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the eldest son of Archduke Charles Ludwig of Austria, the younger brother of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria.
Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s mother was Archduke Charles Ludwig’s second wife, Princess Maria Annunciata of Bourbon-Two Sicilies. In 1875, when he was eleven years old, his cousin Francis V, Duke of Modena, died, naming Franz Ferdinand his heir on condition that he add the name “Este” to his own.
Crown Prince Rudolph of Austria died in 1889 part of a murder-suicide with his mistress Mary Vetsera at his hunting lodge in Mayerling. With the death of his father Archduke Charles Ludwig in 1896 from Typhoid, Archduke Franz Ferdinand became the heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne.
His courtship of Sophie Chotek, a lady-in-waiting, caused conflict within the imperial household. To be eligible to marry a member of the imperial House of Habsburg, one had to be a member of one of the reigning or formerly reigning dynasties of Europe. The Choteks were not one of these families. Deeply in love, Franz Ferdinand refused to consider marrying anyone else.
Finally, in 1899, Emperor Franz Joseph agreed to permit Franz Ferdinand to marry Sophie, on the condition that the marriage would be morganatic and that their descendants would not have succession rights to the throne. Sophie would not share her husband’s rank, title, precedence, or privileges; as such, she would not normally appear in public beside him. She would not be allowed to ride in the royal carriage or sit in the royal box in theaters.
Franz Ferdinand held significant influence over the military, and in 1913 he was appointed inspector general of the Austro-Hungarian armed forces.
On Sunday, June 28, 1914, at about 10:45 am, Franz Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated in Sarajevo, the capital of the Austro-Hungarian province of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The perpetrator was 19-year-old Gavrilo Princip, a member of Young Bosnia and one of a group of assassins organized and armed by the Black Hand.
Earlier in the day, the couple had been attacked by Nedeljko Čabrinović, who had thrown a grenade at their car. However, the bomb detonated behind them, injuring the occupants in the following car. On arriving at the Governor’s residence, Franz angrily shouted, “So this is how you welcome your guests – with bombs!”
After a short rest at the Governor’s residence, the royal couple insisted on seeing all those who had been injured by the bomb at the local hospital. However, no one told the drivers that the itinerary had been changed.
When the error was discovered, the drivers had to turn around. As the cars backed down the street and onto a side street, the line of cars stalled. At this same time, Princip was sitting at a cafe across the street. He instantly seized his opportunity and walked across the street and shot the royal couple. He first shot Sophie in the abdomen and then shot Franz Ferdinand in the neck.
Franz Ferdinand leaned over his crying wife. He was still alive when witnesses arrived to render aid. His dying words to Sophie were, “Don’t die darling, live for our children.” Princip’s weapon was the pocket-sized FN Model 1910 pistol chambered for the .380 ACP cartridge provided him by Serbian Army Military Intelligence Lieutenant-Colonel and Black Hand leader Dragutin Dimitrijević.
The archduke’s aides attempted to undo his coat but realized they needed scissors to cut it open: the outer lapel had been sewn to the inner front of the jacket for a smoother fit to improve the Archduke’s appearance to the public. Whether or not as a result of this obstacle, the Archduke’s wound could not be attended to in time to save him, and he died within minutes. Sophie also died en route to the hospital.
Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination led to the July Crisis that gripped all of Europe. The assassinations, along with the arms race, nationalism, imperialism, militarism of Imperial Germany and the alliance system all contributed to the origins of World War I, which began a month after Franz Ferdinand’s death, with Austria-Hungary’s declaration of war against Serbia. The assassination of Franz Ferdinand is considered the most immediate cause of World War I.