Assassination of Franz Ferdinand

Backstory of Franz Ferdinand

Born in 1863, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was the Prince of Hungary and Bohemia. He was the oldest son of Archduke Karl Ludwig of Austria, with two younger siblings by the name of Franz Joseph and Maximillian.

In 1875 Duke Francis V of Modena died and named Ferdinand as his heir when he was only 11 years old. The stipulation was a small one, and required the young prince to add the name Este to his own. Upon acceptance, it made the 11 year old Ferdinand one of the wealthiest men in the world, and all of Austria.

A series of events led to Ferdinand being groomed for the throne, including his father Karl Ludwig dying of typhoid fever in 1896. Despite the royalty that followed his great name, he was more interested in the simple things in life. Ferdinand became just as famous for his adventures traveling as he did for his royalty and wealth.


The first bit of controversy in his life was in 1894, when he met his first love Countess Sophie Chotek in Prague. This resulted in a long and secretive relationship between the two, as she was not eligible to marry anyone in the Imperial House of Habsburg. It was forbidden unless the lady was a member of a reigning or formerly reigning dynasty in Europe.

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Ferdinand was in love, and with the blessing of Emperor Franz Joseph, married Sophie. The penalty was high for the marriage, as their descendants would have no right to the throne. The marriage was also considered morganatic, meaning all of her husband’s privileges, titles, rank and even social status was not passed on to her. Even after having children, they were considered of unequal social rank.

Of the many penalties associated with this type of marriage, Sophia could not appear in public with her husband nor ride with him in the royal carriage. Even after attaining the senior title of Duchess of Hohenberg, she was still considered below other archduchesses.

For reference, at their wedding on July 1st 1900, Ferdinands brothers and Franz Joseph did not attend. The same goes for archdukes and any high ranking title holder, who also declined to attend. Imperial members that decided on their own to attend the wedding were Ferdinand’s stepmother Princess Maria Theresa of Braganza and her daughters.

Why Was Franz Ferdinand Assassinated?

Political reasons are the main culprit for the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, something that he had to deal with early in his reign. Ferdinand’s rise to power would endanger a lot of the policies that were already in place. He was of royal blood, but had more in common with regular people than he did with royalty.

Of the controversial ideas that he would’ve put in place, Trialism, or a triple monarchy was considered dangerous ideals at the time. It would have given the empire’s Slavs an equal say in matters of the government. He also suggested the idea of federalism made up of 16 states, which was actually beneficial to the Austrian-Hungarian Empire in the long run, but would also split the power equally among others. This did not sit well with the elites in power, and his ideas were constantly scrutinized.

It was reported that Serbian terrorist group Black Hand was put in place to stop specific reforms by Ferdinand similar to these, and failed in their first attempt to kill him with a hand grenade. That failed attempt didn’t get the message across, and it was Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian member of the Black Hand that eventually shot and killed Ferdinand and his wife on June 28th 1914.

Who Was Affected?

The ending result of the assassination led to the Austrian-Hungarian Empire declaring war against Serbia, also pulling in several other countries like Germany and Russia.

Names to Remember

The assassin Gavrilo Princip was born in 1894, as one of nine children. His health was always in question throughout his life, and he died of tuberculosis rather than by execution. His joining of the Black Hand society spurred the power of the nationalist movement. Their push for a union between Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia led to the biggest war the country has ever had.

Important Facts

Here are some important things to remember about the assassination.

  • The assassin Gavrilo Princip shot and killed Franz Ferdinand and his wife
  • Ferdinand’s policies were not supported by the elite
  • His marriage to Sophia was opposed and considered shameful to his ranking
  • No one in high ranking attending the wedding, including his own family


Considering the temperament of Ferdinand, letting him ascend to power would have been beneficial for the views of the Black Hand. Instead, the assassination turned into something that led to the death of countless lives.