Saturday, June 28, 2014

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand

all three images: Marlene A. Eilers Koenig Collection
June 28, 1914 

The motorcade left the train station and headed toward the city.  As the weather was warm and sunny, the canvas top on the archduke's car was "folded back" so the crowd could get a better view.   Along the route, the various conspirators, members of the Serbian Black Hand, waited in their spots, ready to make a move when the car approached them.  It was about 10:10 a.m., when one of the would be murderers, Cabrinovic, saw the motorcade and made his move,  He tossed a bomb in the direction of the Archduke's car, but bomb "missed the passengers" and hit the back of the car, falling down into the street.  Several people, including the Duchess of Hohenberg and her lady-in-waiting were hit by shrapnel.

Cabrinovic tried to escape.  He swallowed a vial of cyanide, but it failed to kill him.  He was caught by the police and "dragged away."

Franz Ferdinand and Sophie arrived at the City Hall.  The archduke was understandably angry.  After a fulsome welcome by the mayor, the archduke responded: "What kind of devotion is this?  I come to Sarajevo and am greeted by bombs.  It is outrageous!"

The assassination attempt certainly made everyone even more jittery.  While Sophie attended a reception for the unveiled wives of local Muslim leaders, Franz Ferdinand made arrangements for a telegram to be sent to the Emperor, "assuring him that the assassination plot had failed."

One witness noted that Franz Ferdinand "was trying to show that he was not afraid," but one can only imagine that the atmosphere at was choked with the reality that the Archduke could have been killed.

At 10:45 a.m, the couple descended the stairs from the town hall.  Franz Ferdinand was concerned about Sophie's safety.  He suggested she go back to the hotel or, at least, ride in another car.  The Duchess of Hohenberg responded: " No, Franzi, I am going with you."

Another of the conspirators, Gavrilo Princip was convinced that the route would be changed following the first attempt.  But much to his surprise, the motorcade turned the corner, and in full view Princip recognized the archduke.  

Princip raised his gun, and fired at least three shots.  Both Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the Duchess of Hohenberg sustained fatal injuries.  The Duchess succumbed to her injuries in the car.  Franz Ferdinand's wound was in his neck.  He died within minutes.

11:00 a.m., June 28, 1914.  There would be no wedding anniversary celebrations for a couple so very much in love.   The Emperor of Austria would mourn the loss of his nephew, his heir.  For Franz Josef,  whose only son committed suicide, and his wife, killed by an assassin,  this was a painful time.  

Gavrilo Princip was soon apprehended and jailed.

Three young children, Princess Sophie, Prince Maximilian and Prince Ernst of Hohenberg  were orphaned because of the Black Hand's hatred of Austria.   The penalty for this action was swift.  One month later,  on July 23, 1914,  Germany and Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia.

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