Franz Ferdinand was an Archduke of Austria-Este and was entitled to inherit the throne of Austria-Hungary. He was assassinated along with his wife in Sarajevo, an event that led to the First World War. Here are 10 interesting facts about the life and assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.
#1 Franz became extremely rich at the age of eleven
Born on 18 December 1863, Franz Ferdinand was the eldest son of Archduke Karl Ludwig of Austria. In 1875, his cousin Duke Francis V of Modena died. The Duke named the eleven year old Franz as his heir provided he added the name Este to his own. Thus, aged 11, Franz Ferdinand became one of the wealthiest men in Austria.
#2 He became entitled to inherit the throne due to an extra-marital affair of the Prince
Franz Ferdinand was the nephew of Emperor Franz Joseph I. In 1889, the son of Franz Joseph, Crown Prince Rudolf committed suicide due to events post his extra-marital affair. This made Franz’s father Karl Ludwig the first in line to the throne. After the death of his father due to typhoid in 1896, Franz Ferdinand became the successor to the Austro-Hungarian throne.
#3 The Emperor Franz Joseph I was against his marriage to Sophie
In his thirties Franz met Countess Sophie Chotek and they fell in love. As Franz belonged to the Royal House of Habsburg, it was required that the person to whom he married must belong to a reigning or formerly reigning dynasty of Europe. Sophie didn’t fit the criteria and Emperor Franz Joseph refused to give his permission to the marriage.
#4 Even if Franz became the Emperor, his children wouldn’t
Franz was deeply in love with Sophie and refused to marry anyone else. After several influential people made representations on Franz’s behalf, the Emperor finally agreed on the conditions that no descendants of Franz and Sophie would succeed to the throne; and the marriage would be morganatic, i.e. Sophie would not share her husband’s title or privileges.
#5 He was the inspector general of the Austro-Hungarian forces
Franz joined the army at an early age. He was given the rank of lieutenant at age fourteen, captain at twenty-two, colonel at twenty-seven, and major general at thirty-one. In 1913, he was appointed inspector general of all the armed forces of Austria-Hungary thus given him command during wartime.
#6 Six Assassins were given the task to kill Franz Ferdinand
Franz Ferdinand and Sophie were to tour Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina on June 28, 1914. A group of six assassins (five Serbs and one Bosnian Muslim) coordinated by Danilo Ilic were positioned along the motorcade route to kill the Archduke.
#7 Franz was attacked twice on the day of the assassination
On June 28, Franz and Sophie were first attacked by Nedeljko Čabrinović, who threw a grenade at their car. The bomb, however, bounced off the car to the street, wounding 16-20 people. When Franz arrived at the Governor’s residence, he angrily shouted, “So this is how you welcome your guests — with bombs?!”
#8 Gavrilo Princip assassinated Franz Ferdinand and Sophie on June 28, 1914
Franz and Sophie decided to visit the people injured as a result of the bombing. The drivers didn’t know that the itinerary had been changed. Once they were informed they turned around. At the same time one of the assassins Gavrilo Princip happened to be sitting in a nearby café. He seized the opportunity and first shot Sophie in the abdomen and then shot Franz Ferdinand in the neck. The royal couple died en route to the hospital.
#9 Franz and Sophie were assassinated on their wedding anniversary
Franz’s dying words to Sophie were ‘Don’t die darling, live for our children.’ Whether Sophie was pregnant at the time is debated by historians. June 28 happened to be the wedding anniversary of the royal couple.
#10 Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination triggered World War I
Austria-Hungary blamed the Serbian government for the assassination of Franz and Sophie. After Germany assured them of its support in case of Russian intervention, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia on July 28. Within a week, Russia, Belgium, France, Great Britain and Serbia lined up against Austria-Hungary and Germany, and thus the First World War began.