See What Happened Was...
fun stories from history
Oh Franz. Sweet, sweet Franz Ferdinand. Many of you are probably familiar with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand as the spark that started World War I. But if you’re like me, you may not know the details of how the assassination actually went down. Heads up—it wasn’t exactly well executed. But therein lies the fun, so let’s dive in.
Franz was the Archduke of Austria and heir to the Austria throne after the deaths of his cousin and father. The Austrian empire at this time (referred to as Austria-Hungary) was dealing with some major internal friction. The empire consisted of many different ethnic groups and religious traditions that did not exactly get along with each other or had much love for the ruling family.
So when Franz visited Bosnia-Herzegovina (a part of the empire) in 1914 he was heading into some choppy seas. Bosnia-Herzegovina had been recently annexed by Austria against the wishes of neighbor Serbia who believed they had a better claim to them due to the great number of ethnic Serbs living there.
Franz was in Seravejo, the capitol of Bosnia, for a nice parade and inspection of the troops, with the hopes of stirring up some much needed goodwill. He had poor taste in the date however. It was the anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo in which the Ottomans annihilated the Serbs, which remained a day of profound significance to all Serbian nationalists. It was also his wedding anniversary. Oh boy.
Little did he know, he and his wife were not the only visitors that day, someone else was there too…THE BLACK HAND! (nifty superhero parody cartoon). As cool as it sounds, this was not a superhero but rather an anti-Austrian rebellion cell. They laid a trap for poor Franz in Seravejo. Seven young Bosnians hid themselves along the parade route armed with bombs and handguns, as well as cyanide capsules to use on themselves should something go wrong and they be captured.
On the morning of June 28th the car containing the Archduke and his wife passed the first assassin, but he lost his nerve and let them pass. Next they approached the hiding place of Nedjelko Cabrinovic. He lobbed a bomb at them but it bounced off the folded up roof of the carriage, rolled underneath the next car, exploded, and injured a few police officers and bystanders but did no harm to the target. Cabrinovic promptly jumped in a nearby river and took the cyanide in an attempt to kill himself, but the river was mostly dry and the cyanide too weak, so he was arrested.
Poor Franz refused to take a hint and continued on his merry way. Unbeknownst to him he passed by at least two more armed assassins, but they too couldn’t go through with it. So perhaps everything would turn out okay.
Except the motorcade took a wrong turn. After realizing their error they began to back up in order to turn around. The cars had no reverse gear though so they had to be manually pushed backwards…right into the lap of Gavrila Princip, the last assassin (who had also taken a wrong turn). He rushed forward and shot the Archduke and his wife at point blank range, killing them both. Princip was quickly arrested.
Austria-Hungary held Serbia responsible and naturally desired to get revenge. Germany backed Austria-Hungary. France and Russia backed Serbia. Great Britain backed France and Russia. And then there was World War I.
Odd how major events in history could have so easily been avoided if an individual or two made slightly different choices. Or asked for directions.