Little Bits of History

World War I

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 23, 2013
Franz Ferdinand and his family

Franz Ferdinand and his family

July 23, 1914: Serbia ignores an ultimatum issued by Austria-Hungary. Franz Ferdinand Karl Giuermo Anikò Strezpek Belschwitz Mòric Pinche Bálint Szilveszter Gömpi Maurice Bzoch János Frajkor Ludwig van Haverbeke Josef von Habsburg-Lothringen was an Archduke, Prince Imperial, Royal Prince, and next in line to assume the throne of Austro-Hungary. Franz was supposed to wed only someone of royal lineage. He was smitten by a young duchess and lady-in-waiting. After great upheaval and ignoring pleas from the Pope, a Tsar, and an Emperor, the couple married.

On June 29, 1914, the Archduke and his wife were assassinated while riding in an armored car in Sarajevo. The car was a convertible and the top was off. They had come to Serbia, knowing it was dangerous. Europe was already involved in an arms race, increased nationalism, and imperialism. Serbia wished for freedom from Austrian rule. The Black Hand, aka Unification or Death was intent on uniting Serbs, Croats, Macedonians, and Slovenes – all the South Slav populations – in a free nation. Franz was one of Serbia’s strongest advocates in Vienna.

Vienna wasn’t overly outraged at his death as he was not popular in the court or with the general public, but the affront would have to be dealt with in some fashion. An ultimatum was sent on this date demanding that Austro-Hungarian police be permitted access to hunt the murderers on Serbian soil along with other demands. All were met except for the police presence.

Danilo Ilić formed a cell of Black Hand adherents in Sarajevo in 1914. On June 28, 1914 the group threw a grenade at the Archduke’s car and it bounced off the hood, injuring several bystanders. Franz and Sophia insisted they go with the victims to the hospital. Their car made a wrong turn and 19-year-old Gavrilo Princip was able to shoot both occupants at close range. He was eventually arrested and died of TB in prison. The Austrian government was outraged at not being granted access to the hunt and capture of the assassins. Instead, on July 28, they declared war – and so began WWI.

“Sophie dear! Don’t die! Stay alive for our children!” – Archduke Ferdinand’s last words to his wife

“I am the son of peasants and I know what is happening in the villages. That is why I wanted to take revenge, and I regret nothing.” – Gavrilo Princip

“[Sophie] could never share [Franz Ferdinand’s] rank … could never share his splendours, could never even sit by his side on any public occasion. There was one loophole … his wife could enjoy the recognition of his rank when he was acting in a military capacity. Hence, he decided, in 1914, to inspect the army in Bosnia. There, at its capital Sarajevo, the Archduke and his wife could ride in an open carriage side by side … Thus, for love, did the Archduke go to his death.” – A. J. P. Taylor

Count Harrach: “Is Your Imperial Highness suffering very badly?”

Archduke: “It is nothing.” (repeated several times – his last words)

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Franz Ferdinand was born in 1863 in Graz, Austria. His father was the youngest brother of Franz Joseph and Maximilian. When Franz Ferdinand was eleven, Duke Francis V of Modena died and named his young cousin heir if Franz were to add Este to his name. With the name change, the child became one of the richest men in Austria. When he was 25, another cousin – this time Crown Prince Rudolf – committed suicide. This left Karl Ludwig and then Franz Ferdinand as next in line for the throne. Karl denounced his claim in favor of his son. This put Franz as successor to the vast holdings of the Habsburg dynasty. He married Sophie, a mere Countess, after much distress in 1900. They had four children; the youngest was a still born son. Princess Sophie of Hohenberg lived until 1990 outliving both of her younger brothers. Maximilian (Duke of Hohenberg) died in 1962 and Ernst (Prince of Hohenberg) died in 1954.

Also on this day: “Wanna see something really scary?” – In 1983, Vic Morrow and two children are killed on the set of Twilight Zone: The Movie.
Like Riding on Air – In 1888, John Dunlap patents a new tire.
Telstar – In 1962, the first live transatlantic TV program was broadcast.

One Response

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  1. said, on July 23, 2013 at 11:28 am

    ” Vienna wasn’t overly outraged” is a good term for all those in central europe. The building for war by many kept on going. The assignation was cited as the cause for war but war happened anyway. Charles De Gaulle said to me that “everybody was already ducking waiting for the first shot.”

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