Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand
Between 1900 and 1915, forty political assassinations took place around the world. The most significant was the one referred to as the “spark that lit the powder keg of Europe”, an act that many believe began the conflagration of the First World War. What follows is an assassination story describing how the Austrian Archduke, Franz Ferdinand, while touring the recently annexed provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina, was shot by a Gavrilo Princip, a nineteen-year-old Serbian nationalist.
While on an official visit and making their way to Sarajevo City Hall, Ferdinand’s motorcade was driving the planned route beside the Miljacka River in the heart of the city. Suddenly, from a crowd on onlookers stepped Nedeljko Čabrinović, who hurled a bomb at Franz’s convertible. The bomb, given to the group of seven conspirators by an officer in the Serbian armed forces, bounced off the Archduke’s vehicle and exploded nearby, injuring several others in the procession. The would-be assassin then took a dose of cyanide (it was expired) and jumped into the river (only a dozen centimeters deep) in a failed suicide attempt. Čabrinović, as one might expect, was quickly grabbed by bystanders, beaten, and arrested.
After a brief visit at City Hall, the Archduke changed his plans and decided to visit those injured by the earlier attack. On their way to the hospital, a wrong turn by the front car in the procession resulted in the Archduke’s car being forced to stop unexpectedly along the way. Unlike the other would-be assassins who were planted along the previous procession route, Princip’s weapon of choice was not a bomb, but a .38 Browning revolver and when Ferdinand’s driver stopped, Princip stepped forward and opened fire on the car killing Ferdinand and his wife Sophie.
Princip, like his fellow conspirator Čabrinović, was captured and beaten on the spot. In 1918 he died in prison of tuberculosis and was unapologetic for his role in sparking the chain of events that resulted in the First World War.
Main photo: Francis Ferdinand and his wife Sophie five minutes before their assassination, 28 June 1914.