Assassination of Franz Ferdinand

The Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand

Tension had been rising between the European powers for many years.  The events that took place in Sarajevo in 1914, unleashed a series of events that finally lighted a fuse which would explode into the First World War.  The key event, which started this chain reaction was the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, who was the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Source A:  Archduke just before he was assassinated, 1914.

Slav Nationalism

The large Austro-Hungarian Empire contained many different nationalities, including millions of Slavs.  Many of these Slavs wanted to break away from the Austro-Hungarian Empire and set up their own country.  Their fellow Slavs in Serbia encouraged this unrest.  A secret terrorist organisation called the Black Hand was set up in Serbia with the aim of freeing all Slav people.  In order to achieve this it was decided to assassinate the Archduke.  They decided the best time and place to do this was when he visited Sarajevo with his wife Sophie on the 28th June 1914.

Franz Ferdinand visits Saravejo

From the beginning of their visit the royal couple were cheered everywhere they went.  They were visiting Sarajevo to celebrate their wedding anniversary.  Security was lax as there were no soldiers on duty and only a few police.  At 10.10 am a tall man wearing a long black coat and hat threw a hand grenade and at the Archdukes car.  The driver saw the bomb coming and accelerated his car so it missed him.  The bomb bounced underneath the next car in the procession and injured about 20 people.  The damaged car was pushed onto the pavement.

Source B: The last photograph of Franz Ferdinand taken shortly before his death.

Assassination of Franz Ferdinand

Even though someone had just tried to kill him, the Archduke decided to carry on with his royal visit.  Unknown to him there were at least two other men waiting to try and assassinate him.  One man failed because he could not get the bomb out of his pocket. The people next to him  were jammed against his side.  However, the third assassin was lucky enough to succeed in killing the Archduke.

Assassination of Franz Ferdinand

During the two failed attempts to kill the Franz Ferdinand another young assassin called Gavrilo Princip, a 19 year old Serb, was waiting for his chance to kill him.  He was a member of the Black Hand and at first he thought that his other friends had been successful.  When he saw the Archduke’s car go flying by he felt depressed and decided to have a cup of coffee in a nearby cafe .  In his pocket was a revolver.  He had fired a few practice shots the day before, but had missed the target.  Besides, he had never been taught at a moving target.At 10.45 am the Archduke decided to cut short his reception at the town hall and decided to visit a policeman injured in the bomb attack on his car.  During the journey to the hospital the car with his bodyguards took a wrong turning.  The Archduke’s driver slammed on the brakes to try and catch up with the other car.  However, the car engine stalled outside the cafe where Princip was having his cup of coffee.  Princip could not believe his luck.  He pushed through the crowd and pulled out his revolver.  A policeman saw him and tried to stop him but was hit by someone behind him.  Princip jumped onto the car’s running board and fired at point blank range.  He missed the Archduke and shot his wife.  He tried again and finally succeeded.  As he died the Archduke cried to his wife ‘Sophie, Sophie don’t die.

Source C: ‘The Habsburgs’ by McGuigan published in the 1970s.

Franz Ferdinand cried out. ‘Sophie, Sophie! Don’t die! Stay alive for the children!’  His plumed hat had fallen off, and now as his attendant tried to prop him upright he slumped over his wife’s dead body and died.

Source D: Princip’s statement at his trial, 1914.

The main motive which guided me in my deed was the avenging of the Serbian people … I am a Nationalist.  I aimed to free the Yugoslavs, for I am a Yugoslav … As far as Serbia is concerned, it is her duty to free us … 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.

Princip later died in prison after he had been badly treated by the authorities.  His actions lead to a chain reaction that exploded into the First World War.

Source E:  The bloodstained tunic, hat, gloves and plumed hat worn by the Archduke on the day of his assassination

Franz Ferdinand

First World War

Causes of the First World War – Timeline of Causes – Forgotten Causes – Assassination of Franz Ferdinand – The Schlieffen Plan – Historiography of the Causes of the First World War

Outbreak of War (Public reaction in Britain) – The British Expeditionary Force in 1914

Trench Warfare – Simulation: Would you make a good officer in the trenches? – British contribution to the Western Front

Battles of the First World War – First Battle of the Marne – The Gallipoli Campaign – Battle of Verdun – Battle of Jutland – Brusilov Offensive – Battle of the Somme – Battle of Passchendaele – The Spring Offensive – Battle of Amiens – Victory on the Western Front?

The Home Front – Revision exercise – Changing role of Women – Propaganda – Censorship – Conscientious Objectors – Rationing and Recruitment

Personalities – Douglas Haig and the Somme – Charles Gass – Billy Bishop – Ludendorff – The Bradford Pals – Black History and the First World War

Technology and New Weapons – British Tanks – Machine Guns

Medicine in the First World War

Other wars:

The Norman ConquestThe Wars of the RosesThe British and English Civil WarsThe Second World War – Vietnam WarCold War

Famous Battles:

Battle of Hastings – Battle of TowtonBattle of BosworthD Day

Related Content:

The British EmpireThe Treaty of VersaillesImpact of the War on Germany – Primary HistoryHistory Teachers Resources