28/6/1914 Sarajevo: the Assassins Strike

It is Sunday. Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is in Bosnia-Herzegovina for army manoeuvres. Today he is paying an official visit to the province’s capital, Sarajevo. He arrives by train at 9.20 a.m. and then boards a car that will take him to the Town Hall for the first of his official engagements. With him is his wife, Sophie, the Duchess of Hohenburg. As she is not from one of the ruling dynasties of Europe, she is not allowed to sit with her husband at formal events in Vienna, but in Sarajevo things are more relaxed.

Cheering crowds line the route from the station to the Town Hall. But not everyone is so fond of Franz Ferdinand. Many Bosnians hate that their region has been incorporated into Austria-Hungary and instead wish that it was part of Serbia or some new country of the southern Slavs.

For Bosnians who hate Habsburg rule, the visit of Franz Ferdinand is a symbol of national humiliation. Among the crowds lining the archduke’s route are conspirators who have planned to avenge that humiliation by murdering him. The first two of these fail to act, but then one Nedjelko Chabrinovitch throws a bomb at Franz Ferdinand’s car. The driver sees it coming and accelerates out of danger; the bomb explodes instead under the following vehicle, injuring two policemen. Chabrinovitch is quickly apprehended. The archduke’s car speeds to the Town Hall too quickly for any of the other conspirators to try anything.

The assassination attempt forces a change of itinerary for Franz Ferdinand. He will cancel all his planned engagements bar an official lunch in the Konak, the governor’s residence. But the archduke insists on a trip to the military hospital to visit the men wounded by Chabrinovitch’s bomb.

A route is arranged that will allow the archduke’s motorcade to speed along quickly, minimising the danger of further assassination attempts. Unfortunately, the lead driver takes a wrong turn. Realising his mistake, he stops, halting the entire motorcade. Franz Ferdinand’s car is halted right beside where conspirator Gavrilo Princip is waiting. The Serb nationalist seizes his chance, producing his pistol and firing twice at the archduke. The first shot hits Franz Ferdinand, the second his wife, who has thrown herself in front of her husband. The wounds prove fatal. By 11.30 a.m. both Franz Ferdinand and Sophie are dead.

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