Top 10 Facts about the Assassination of Archduke Ferdinand II


Image: Wikipedia

I think it is safe to say that World War I started because a driver took the wrong turn! Bizarre, right? Let us see why as we meet Archduke Ferdinand II. 

Archduke Ferdinand II was heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary. He became a major general in 1894 and become admiral of the Austro-Hungarian in 1902. In 1913 he became the inspector general of the Austro-Hungarian Armed Forces. 

Here are some ten facts about this historical incident that changed the course of world politics.

1. This assassination brought about World War I

World War I
Image: Wikimedia Commons

When Archduke Ferdinand II the heir to the Austria-Hungary throne was killed by a Serbian terrorist Princip, tension started between Austria-Hungary and Serbia and Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia when Serbia could not meet its demands; Russia, being an ally of Serbia declared war on Austria, Germany joined their allies Austria-Hungary to attack Russia. Everyone suspected that Serbia had something to do with the assassination and the war started. Other nations joined in to support the warring nations; mostly because of alliances that had been formed before. 

This led to the beginning of World War 1. Even though there had been other issues between countries at that time, his death is said to have been the final straw which led to the war that saw millions killed, more than 30 million people injured and economies destroyed. 

2. Two attempts at his death

Archduke Ferdinand II of Austria was assassinated together with his wife Sophie by a 19-year-old Serbian national terrorist group member Gavrilo Princip during the strife against the Austria-Hungary’s rule over Bosnia on June 28th, 1914. He has traveled to Sarajevo in the capacity of the inspector general when the incident happened.

He escaped the first attempt when a bomb was thrown at his car in Sarajevo. The person who missed the car was arrested, but some soldiers in the car that was part of the entourage were injured. Instead of fleeing to safety, Ferdinand decided to change his plans, instead, going to the hospital to see the injured soldiers. On their way back, the driver took a wrong turn and the car got stuck, as they were trying to get the car out, a young Serbian student Princip who was in a café nearby, saw the opportunity to kill Ferdinand; he took his pistol and shot him and his wife killing them on the spot. He was arrested and sentenced to 20 years in prison but he died a few into his sentence of an illness. 

3. His children forfeited claims to the throne

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Ferdinand II’s wife Sophie Chotek was what we would call a lady-in-waiting and was not supposed to marry into royalty. She was Isabella of Pressburg’s lady-in-waiting from Bohemia and Emperor Franz Joseph, Ferdinand’s uncle did not agree to this relationship, and even though the two decided to marry anyway, it brought much tension between the two men. The Pope and even the Czar had to intervene! His uncle would only agree to the union if Ferdinand would forfeit his children’s claim to the throne! It was also agreed that Sophie would not get buried in the Habsburg’s burial ground! Talk about family issues! They had three children: Maximillian, Ernst, and Sophie. 

4. Heir to the throne

So why did the death of Archduke Ferdinand lead do a war that affected the whole world? He was an heir to the throne- Austria-Hungary, a piece of land that covered Central and Eastern Europe. Modern-day Hungary and Austria. Austria-Hungary had annexed Serbia and the people thought he was treating them unfairly. Because he was a Major General in the Austria-Hungary army, he had the privilege of going round inspecting military installations, investigations, and exercises. That was what he was doing in Bolivia which led to his assassination. 

5. The Black Hand 

Gavrilo Princip
Image: Wikipedia

The Black Hand was a terrorist group from Serbia, not necessarily supported by the Serbian Government. They wanted to get freedom from the Austro-Hungarian rule (the country where Ferdinand II hailed from). They believed that the only way they would break free from what they viewed as oppression, was by using violence. 

The Serbian government had warned the Austro-Hungarian government about an attack by the Black Hand terrorists but the message was not well received. The Austro-Hungarians blamed the Serbians for the killing, therefore, opening up World War I.

6. Alliance and allegiances

There was a problem. A Serbian terrorist had killed an heir to the throne in what some people thought was an attack by the nnnSerbian government. They then made demands which Serbia refused to meet. Because each country has allies and supporters, both Serbia and Austria-Hungary turned to their allies to back them up. Russia backed Serbia while Germany backed Austria-Hungary before long, France and Britain joined the war, and mayhem happened!   

7. He was not the initial heir to the throne

Franz Joseph of Austria
Image: Wikimedia Commons

His parents were not the rulers, but his uncle Franz Joseph was the Emperor of Austria-Hungary. Archduke Ferdinand II was the son of Archduke Karl Ludwig and Princess Maria Annunciata. He came from a well-off family and received the best education. He started his military education at an early age, only twelve years old and at the age of twenty, he joined the Austria-Hungary Army. Because of his wits and wisdom, he rose the ranks to become a major general at the age of 30! Now, remember that his father was not the emperor?

Emperor Franz Joseph had one child Crown Prince Rudolf who was to take over from him, but Rudolf killed himself in 1889, leaving Karl Ludwig, Ferdinand’s father as the heir to the throne since the Crown Prince had no children to take his place. Archduke Karl Ludwig unfortunately also died due to an illness, now leaving Archduke Ferdinand II as heir to the throne!

8. Not so healthy

Ferdinand’s mother Princess Maria Annunciata died of Tuberculosis and Ferdinand himself was not the healthiest young man. Actually, in his 20s, he traveled far and wide; in different countries looking for treatment for the same disease, and he got healed from the disease at some point!

9. Quite a traveler he was 

Even though he traveled to look for remedies for his sickness, Ferdinand was known to be quite a globetrotter as he set aside time to visit various countries in the world once in a while!

10. Did he have hobbies?

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Oh, yea he did! Even though he was quite a temperamental man, and sometimes difficult to understand, Ferdinand II the family man loved flowers, and it is said that he took time to nurture and study flowers especially roses which were his favorite; his daughter even said the guy would take flowers and press them between pages of books! He is also known to have loved the Austria-Hungarian Navy so much so that when he and his wife died, they were given a lying in a state ceremony in the SMS Viribius Unitis, the navy ship!