28/4/1918 Gavrilo Princip dies

Do you remember Gavrilo Princip? Back in 1914 he shot and killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, triggering the crisis that led the outbreak of war. Princip was convicted of murder but, being under 20 years of age, was too young for the death penalty and was given a 20 year prison sentence. Held in harsh conditions, his health has deteriorated. His right arm had to be amputated while disease and malnutrition has led to him wasting away. Today finally he dies of consumption.

Princip expressed sorrow for having also killed Sophie of Chotek, Franz Ferdinand’s wife, thereby orphaning their children. He never accepted responsibility for having plunged Europe into conflict, blaming German ambition for having started the war.

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Gavrilo Princip (Wikipedia)

20/1/1916 Consumption claims one of Franz Ferdinand’s assassins

The spark that ignited this terrible war was the murder in Sarajevo of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary. Nedjelko Chabrinovitch was one of the Archduke’s killers. Gavrilo Princip fired the fatal shot but Chabrinovitch made the first attempt to kill the Franz Ferdinand, throwing a bomb at his car, injuring some of his party and a number of onlookers.

Chabrinovitch considered his actions heroic and driven by noble sentiments. Yet he also expressed a degree of remorse and sympathy for the orphaned children of Franz Ferdinand (their mother was also shot dead by Princip). Subsequently two of the Archduke’s three children wrote to Chabrinovitch, forgiving him for his part in the murder of their parents, thought the youngest declined to sign the letter.

Chabrinovitch’s youth saved him from the death penalty; an Austro-Hungarian court gave him a twenty year prison sentence. But Chabrinovitch knew he was unlikely to ever live again as a free man, as he was already suffering from consumption when he tried to kill Franz Ferdinand. Today he finally succumbs to the disease, his death no doubt hastened by the conditions of his imprisonment.

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Franz Ferdinand and his family in happier times (The Bexley Times)

28/6/1915 Franz Ferdinand’s assassination: one year on

It is a year since Gavrilo Princip shot dead Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Countess Sophie, the Archduke’s wife, triggering the crisis that has engulfed Europe in war. Princip now languishes in an Austro-Hungarian prison, his youth saving him from the death penalty. His co-conspirator Nedjelko Chabrinovitch was also too young to be executed, but other members of their group have been hanged. The members of Serbia’s state security apparatus who provided training and the murder weapons to the conspirators remain unpunished; the failure of Austria-Hungary’s invasions of Serbia have left them at leisure to enjoy their freedom.

Franz Ferdinand & Sophie Chotek (Der Spiegel)

3/2/1915 Avenging Franz Ferdinand

Remember Franz Ferdinand? The assassination of the Habsburg Archduke lit the fuse that set the world alight. The Austro-Hungarians had hoped to punish Serbia for that country’s part in Franz Ferdinand’s murder. However their army has suffered a series of humiliating reverses in its attempted invasions of Serbia.

The people more directly involved in the Archduke’s murder were arrested immediately afterwards and are unable to escape retribution. Gavrilo Princip fired the fatal shot, but he is too young to be executed. So is Nedjelko Chabrinovitch, who threw a bomb at the Archduke’s carriage. Others are old enough to face the full rigours of the law, notably Danilo Ilitch, Veljko Chubrilovitch and Mihaijlo Jovanovitch. Ilitch was the main organiser in Sarajevo of the plot to kill Franz Ferdinand. Jovanovitch had helped to bring the murder weapons from Serbia. Chubrilovitch was armed with a gun and a bomb on the day of the Archduke’s death but failed to act.

Ilitch had broken under interrogation and provided considerable information on the plot to the Austro-Hungarians. His cooperation avails him naught and today he is hanged in Sarajevo, as are Chubrilovitch and Jovanovitch.

Franz Ferdinand assassination image source (Guardian)

Danilo Ilitch image source (Wikipedia)

28/10/1914 The return of Gavrilo Princip

Remember Gavrilo Princip? He was the Bosnian Serb who shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife on the 28th of June. The trial of Princip and his alleged conspirators began on the 12th of October and now the verdicts and sentences are announced. Princip is of course found guilty, but under Austro-Hungarian law he is too young for the death penalty and is sentenced to 20 years in prison. Nedjelko Chabrinovitch, who threw a bomb at Franz Ferdinand’s car, receives the same sentence as he is also too young. But other convicted conspirators are sentenced to hang, including Danilo Ilitch who had proved so cooperative under interrogation.

image source (Wikipedia)

5/7/1914 Danilo Ilitch can talk some more

In Sarajevo, Danilo Ilitch, leader of the conspirators against Franz Ferdinand, is being increasingly cooperative with his Austro-Hungarian interrogators. Now he reveals that Princip, Chabrinovitch and others received training in Serbia from Voja Tankositch, a Serbian army major.

1/7/1914 Sarajevo: a bird begins to sing

By now the authorities in Sarajevo have hauled in Danilo Ilitch, local organiser of the plot against Franz Ferdinand. Unlike Princip and Chabrinovitch, Ilitch is over 21. He is therefore eligible for the death penalty. To avoid execution he begins to talk, implicating one conspirator who has thus far escaped arrest.

29/6/1914 War fever in Vienna

War fever grips Austrian government circles. The murder of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne is an unpardonable act. Serbian complicity in Franz Ferdinand’s assassination is taken for granted.

Army chief of staff Conrad calls for immediate mobilisation against Serbia. Leopold von Berchtold, the foreign minister, argues for delay. But he is not implacably opposed to war as such. Previously he had always argued against those who proposed war with Serbia, but now he seems more bellicose. Yet he is naturally cautious, constitutionally incapable of swift decisions.

Another opponent of war is Stefan Tisza, the Hungarian prime minister (the peculiar constitutional setup of Austria-Hungary means that it has two prime ministers and two governments, but one army and one foreign minister). He visits Vienna to offer condolences to the Emperor. He also meets Berchtold and is perturbed by the foreign minister’s new found belligerence towards Serbia. Tisza is implacably opposed to war and to Austro-Hungarian expansion in the south; as far as Tisza is concerned, the less Slavs in the empire, the better.

Sarajevo, meanwhile, is convulsed by anti-Serb riots. And under interrogation, Chabrinovitch, the man who threw a bomb at Franz Ferdinand, admits to having worked with Gavrilo Princip. He continues to deny the existence of a wider conspiracy.

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.