The Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand

It’s June 28th 1914 and the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Hungarian-Austria empire, is visiting Bosnia. It his last day. Today is the day of pomp and ceremony. People are encouraged to wave flags.

The BBC re-enacts the day.

The duke and his wife sit in a car. The archduke married for love. In Bosnia his wife is wearing an Edwardian dress, he is wearing a uniform.

But not everyone is happy. The old colonial exploitive-ness over timber makes one group want to take things into his own hands. A farmers son leads them. What better way to do it but assassinate the archduke.

A number of assassins line the parade. The second assassin throws a grenade and the blast injures the car behind on the way to the town hall. When they arrive at the Town Hall the other assassins leave. The mayor of Sarajevo conducts a speech. When finished the archduke and his wife get back in the car and leave. But for the assassin Gavrilo Princip who waits at the corner of a café. The driver makes a mistake and reverses by the cafe.

‘I knew where he would pass having read it in the Bosnian Post. I saw that a lady was sitting with him. Then I stood and one man came up-to me and talked to me and said : do you see how dumb they are? I was silent. The automobile came and I shot at Ferdinand twice from a distance of four or five paces.’

No one is looking at the archduke but for Count Franz von Harrach:

‘A thin spurt of blood spurted from his mouth onto my right cheek. As I pulled out my handkerchief to wipe the blood from his mouth, the duchess cried out: my god what has happened to you? At that she slid off her seat and lay on the floor of the car. With her face between her knees. I had no idea she too was hit and thought she had simply fainted from fright. Then I heard his imperial highness say: Sophie, Sophie, don’t die; stay alive for the children. At that point I seized the archduke from the collar of his uniform to stop his head dropping forward, and asked him if he was in great pain. He answered me quite distinctly: It is nothing. His face began to twist somewhat then he went on repeating ever more faintly until he lost consciousness: it is nothing.’

It is just after 11.00am.

‘The news has just arrived from Vienna that the hereditary archduke of Austria and his wife have today been assassinated at Sarajevo.’

By the time of the trial of Gavrilo Princip the first world war had begun.


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