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99 Things You Need To Know About Franz Ferdinand Before The 100th Anniversary Of His Assassination

One year from today is the 100th anniversary of Austrian archduke Franz Ferdinand's assassination in Sarajevo, the event widely considered to be the trigger that started World War I. Here are 99 things you need to know about Franz Ferdinand the man (not the band), the political climate in Europe and the Balkans leading up to 1914 and the tick-tock of events that occurred on June 28, 1914 that led to his death.

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5. Karl Ludwig, Ferdinand's father, became heir to the throne upon Rudolf's death. In turn, he passed the rights to his eldest son, making Franz Ferdinand heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne.


8. He toured extensively throughout the United States in 1893, spanning from San Francisco to Niagara Falls.


12. But even with his fondness for the outdoors and his enjoyment of landscaping, interior design was another passion for Ferdinand.

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16. He loved a great bargain, in spite of his enormous personal wealth that was of very few constraints. But with his bargaining came increased frugality, to the point that many considered him cheap.


21. Ferdinand was considered one of the better shots throughout Europe, frequently challenging sharpshooters to a game of their choice. More often than not, Ferdinand would come away victorious.


24. No matter how big or small, Ferdinand recorded all of his kills in a notebook. It was rumored he killed 2140 birds in one day.


29. Upon learning of his nephew's courting of a woman from a much lower social class, Emperor Franz Josef made it be known that he would not consent to a marriage.

30. But Ferdinand never relented, and the Emperor finally conceded to allow a 'morganatic' marriage. Sophie would never assume a full royal title and she would never travel in an official capacity. Their children would have no claims to the throne.

31. Ferdinand's relationship with his uncle, while previously strained, was increasingly fraught after the terse negotiations regarding the marriage. Both hard-headed, they never fully reconciled.


36. With time, Ferdinand was given new titles, including Inspector General of the Army. It was a largely ceremonial role, but it allowed him to feel as if he were participating in the future of the Empire.

37. Because of the amount of time he spent away from Vienna, (and as a result, the status quo) Ferdinand adopted a different way of looking at things in his role as an outsider.

38. He was greatly concerned with the plight of those living in Bosnia and Herezgovina, an annexed and marginalized territory filled with a mix of ethnicities that had no voice in the central government.


40. But his plan was dismissed outright in Catholic Vienna, much like the city had dismissed him. There was little tolerance and little desire to give the predominantly Slavic people an equal say in the affairs of the Empire.

41. So when Ferdinand announced that he would visit Bosnia to inspect the 15th and 16th Army corps in June 1914, it was met with a degree of ambivalence among the political class in Vienna.

42. That was of no concern to Ferdinand though, as he was able to exact a major concession out of the aging Emperor: that Sophie be allowed to accompany him on the trip in an official capacity for the first time.

43. They would stay in a grand hotel in Ildize while Ferdinand took part in the maneuvers. Once he had completed his duties, they would travel by train to Sarajevo for a grand parade throughout the city before returning home.


45. It would be their fourteenth wedding anniversary. Ferdinand carefully orchestrated the trip so their anniversary would coincide with the end of their first official state visit together.

46. June 28 is also St. Vitus Day, an important day on the Serbian religious calendar.

49. Serbian secular culture held high the example of men like Milos Obilic, men who sacrificed themselves for the betterment of the Serbian cause and the Serbian people.

50. So when it was announced that Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne (the new oppressor, replacing the Ottomans), would be in Sarajevo on June 28, it was used as a call to arms to find a new generation of Milos Obilics to fight a new enemy.

51. But Ferdinand's trip was not the first seed of discontent to be sown. Trouble had been brewing in the Balkans for over five years up to this point.

53. So when the Emperor changed his mind in 1908 and decided to unilaterally annex the territories, there was a growing animosity against Austria-Hungary's presence in the region as a result.

55. And it led to the growth of a number of secret societies across Bosnia and Serbia, motivated to unite the Slavic people across the Balkans into one nation so they could forever rid themselves of foreign occupiers and oppressors.

57. His writing was influential across the region, used to inspire young men to join his organization to work for change.

58. But no pamphlet had a greater impact on influencing the masses than 'The Death of a Hero,' his eulogy of Bogdan Zerajic.

61. And he was revered as a modern day Milos Obilic, one willing to sacrifice for the betterment of the Greater Serbia. He was a tangible role model for all of the disenfranchised youth of Serbia and Bosnia that wanted to act for change.

62. The Austro-Hungarian Empire was becomingly increasingly aware of the role that secret societies were having in political life in Bosnia and Serbia. It pushed hard for Serbia to shut down the activity in Belgrade.

64. But Pasic turned a blind eye when the more radical elements of the group attempted to reorganize. And reorganize they did. The remnants of Young Bosnia reformed in 1911 to become known as the Black Hand. The group's motto was 'In Union or in Death.'

65. The Black Hand operated clandestinely, broken down into cells of three members each. Cells never interacted with one another, and they were each controlled by the operating board in Belgrade.

66. All initiates into the Black Hand had to kneel before a table with cloaks covering their heads, reciting an inscription read to them by the committee leader. They promised obedience to the cause of building a Greater Serbia before all else.

(NOTE: Yes, the head of Serbia's intelligence services / army was also essentially running a rogue terrorist network. Helping to connect the dots on that one.)

68. Dimitrijevic was considered one of the most vicious killers of his time, staging and leading a brutal coup in 1903 that led to the assassination of King Alexander I and Queen Draga while they lie in bed.

70. Courted by Russia, somewhat feared by Austria-Hungary and Germany, Serbia was quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with in the Balkans.

71. So Dimitrijevic rationalized that the timing was right to push for one united Slavic nation. And there would be no better way to pick a fight with Austria-Hungary than to assassinate Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the throne.

73. Princip was small for his age and had very poor health. He grew up poor, and his brother paid for his schooling. He applied to the army, hoping to make something of himself, but was laughed off the training field. Like Ferdinand, he was an outsider.

74. That's when Danilo Ilic called to recruit Princip to join the Black Hand. Ilic, a teacher, recruited all of the men for the plot to assassinate Ferdinand. He was persuasive, and Princip agreed to join.

76. All three were trained in the relatively remote Morava Valley by Milan Ciganovic, the weapons man for the Black Hand. They learned how to fire a gun, bomb throwing, bridge destruction and much more.

77. And all three agreed to take cyanide once the assassination was complete, ensuring that they would die for the Greater Serbian cause. They were very familiar with 'The Death of a Hero' and Gacinovic's other literature calling for a generation of martyrs.

78. The assassins left a month before Ferdinand's arrival to ensure that they made it into Sarajevo before the borders closed. They each took separate routes along the way, hoping to cover their tracks.

79. They each stayed with a number of families along the way, many of whom had no idea who the assassins were or had any knowledge of their intentions. Nevertheless, almost everyone who housed them along the route was rounded up after June 28.

81. Danilo Ilic invited the assassins to dinner the night before the assassination. They were each given their weapons and a vial of cyanide.

82. He introduced them to three other men who would also be part of the assassination attempt. They were two high schoolers from Sarajevo and a Muslim man in his late 20s.

84. After dinner, the assassins went out drinking for the first (and final) time in their lives.

85. But Princip didn't stay long. He went to visit Bogdan Zerajic's grave at the back of Sarajevo's cemetery. He brought dirt from free Serbia, promising that the following day would be the day of liberation.

86. Ferdinand and Sophie attended mass in the morning before boarding the train into Sarajevo. It had been a very good trip on all fronts, and everyone was eager for the ceremony.

87. Nedlejko Cabrinovic was overcome with emotion throughout the morning. He wore his best clothes, and visited an apothecary beforehand to have his picture taken. He arranged to have the photos sent to his grandmother in Croatia so she could remember him.

88. Before positioning themselves along the parade route, the assassins met with Danilo Ilic one final time. His final words to them: 'Be strong, be brave.'

90. The first two assassins along the route, one of the high schoolers and Muhamed Mehmedbašić, were paralyzed with fear when Ferdinand's car passed. They didn't act.

91. But Nedlejko Cabrinovic, overcome with emotions throughout the morning, was composed when his time came. He threw his bomb, it bouncing off the rear of Ferdinand's car before landing ten feet behind it upon detonation.

92. The car behind Ferdinand's bore the brunt of the explosion. Ferdinand was unharmed, but two of his aides were seriously injured. Cabrinovic was apprehended before he could swallow his cyanide.

93. Ferdinand and others were doubtful over whether the trip should proceed further. But General Oskar Potiorek, the regional governor of Bosnia, had no reservations. "What, do you think my city is full of assassins," he said. "We will continue."

94. The procession sped back to the City Hall along the Appel Quay, Sarajevo's widest avenue that ran parallel to the Miljacka River. Princip, unable to get off a shot, retreated dejectedly to a side street in shame.

95. At City Hall, Ferdinand mustered his resolve to continue the trip, but with one concession. Only major thoroughfares would be used, no more side streets. But not everyone got the message.

98. The first shot went into Ferdinand's neck. The second into Sophie's stomach. That's all Princip could get off, but both proved fatal. 'Don't die! Don't die! Stay alive for our children,' were his final words to her. They both died on their anniversary.

Princip died alone in his jail cell in 1918, not as the hero he intended to be.

100. Bonus: I will post again in a few weeks with the fallout from Ferdinand's death and the political events that led to the Great War. Stay tuned.

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