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On June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie, Duchess of Honenberg, were assassinated by the Yugoslav nationalist Gavrilo Princip. The murders triggered the outbreak of World War I a few weeks later. But what exactly happened on that morning in Sarajevo? FRANCE 24 reconstructs Franz Ferdinand’s itinerary and the fateful encounter with Princip that changed the course of history.
© Hohenberg Family / Museum of Sarajevo

The morning train

Archduke Franz Ferdinand (pictured arriving in the spa town of Ilidza near Sarajevo) and his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg, have been in Bosnia-Herzegovina for the past three days to attend military exercises. This former Ottoman territory was annexed by the Austro-Hungarian empire in 1908. After spending a final night in Ilidza, the royal couple take the 9:25am train to the capital of Sarajevo, where they are due to attend several receptions.
© Stephanie Trouillard FRANCE 24 / Museum of Sarajevo

Driving through Sarajevo

At around 10:10am, Franz Ferdinand and his wife climb into the open-topped automobile that will take them to Sarajevo City Hall. Crowds of curious onlookers greet them as they drive through the streets. Despite threats of an attack, the Archduke’s motorcade travels down the Appel Quay without a police escort. Military units that had participated in the military exercises nearby are not on hand to provide protection.
© Stephanie Trouillard FRANCE 24 / Postcard, circa 1900

A first assassination attempt fails

Nedeljko Cabrinovic, a member of the Young Bosnia (Mlada Bosna) revolutionary group, hears the motorcade approach the Cumurija Bridge. Six members of the organisation, which calls for the unification of south-Slav peoples, have taken up position along the motorcade route. They are furious over the Archduke’s visit on June 28, the date on which Serbs commemorate the Battle of Kosovo, lost to the Ottomans in 1389, and have vowed to kill the Archduke. At around 10:15am Cabrinovic throws a bomb at Franz Ferdinand’s automobile, but it explodes only after rolling under the next vehicle. Cabrinovic tries to commit suicide by swallowing a cyanide pill, but the poison fails to kill him, and he is arrested.
© Stephanie Trouillard FRANCE 24 / Wikimedia Commons

‘Welcomed with bombs’

Despite the assassination attempt, the motorcade continues towards City Hall. Franz Ferdinand and the Duchess are greeted by the mayor of Sarajevo, who has prepared a welcoming speech. But Ferdinand angrily interrupts him, shouting “So this is how you welcome your guests – with bombs?!”
© Stephanie Trouillard FRANCE 24 / Museum of Sarajevo

Respecting protocol

The Duchess whispers to her husband, who regains his composure and asks the mayor to proceed with the formalities. Around 10:45am the couple prepare to leave the town hall (now a library). At this point Franz Ferdinand and his wife are supposed to go their separate ways, but instead decide to visit those who had been injured in the earlier bomb attack.
© Stephanie Trouillard FRANCE 24 / Museum of Sarajevo

On a collision course

Franz Ferdinand and his entourage decide to change the initial itinerary, which was supposed to take the motorcade through Sarajevo’s city centre. The new plan is to return to the Appel Quay, but no one remembers to inform the driver. In this photo, the last known of the couple alive, the automobile is about to turn onto Franz-Joseph Street.
© Stephanie Trouillard FRANCE 24 / Museum of Sarajevo

Two gunshots

General Oskar Potiorek, the regional governor who is riding in the second car with the Archduke and his wife, informs the driver of the mistake and asks him to turn back. Standing a few metres from the stalled motorcade is Gavrilo Princip, a young Bosnian-born Serb and member of the Young Bosnia movement. Princip, who has been waiting for this opportunity for hours, reaches for his revolver. He fires two shots into the car. The first hits the Duchess, the second, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire.
© Stephanie Trouillard FRANCE 24 / Hohenberg Family

The final motorcade

Mortally wounded, the Duchess collapses in the backseat of the vehicle. Her head falls onto Franz Ferdinand’s lap. In a low voice, he pleads "Sophie, Sophie, don’t die, for the sake of our children,” before he himself loses consciousness. Both victims are rushed to Konak, the governor's palace, just a few blocks from the Latin Bridge, where the gunshots were fired.
© Stephanie Trouillard FRANCE 24 / Postcard, www.parlament.ba

Last breath

Franz Ferdinand and his wife are carried to one of the Konak’s guest rooms. The Duchess is already dead. The bullet pierced her abdomen and severed her gastric artery. The Archduke is in a coma and there is nothing the doctors can do for him. At 11am they are declared dead. Religious rites are observed to mourn the royal couple.
© Stephanie Trouillard FRANCE 24 / Museum of Sarajevo

The legendary arrest Princip

After shooting Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Gavrilo Princip attempts to commit suicide, but bystanders seize his revolver. He also fails to swallow his own cyanide pill. Soon after, police tear him away from the mob. In many books, this photograph is presented as the moment when Princip was arrested. In reality, it is a picture of Ferdinand Behr, a man who had wanted to protect the gunman. Princip avoids the death penalty because of his young age, and is instead sentenced to 20 years in prison. Struck by tuberculosis, he dies on April 28, 1918, a few months before the end of World War I, the great international conflict he unknowingly set in motion.
© Stephanie Trouillard FRANCE 24 / AFP

Credits

References:
The Road to Sarajevo, Vladimir Dedijer, Gallimard, 1969
François-Ferdinand d’Autriche, Jean-Louis Thieriot, Ed Tempus, 2011
The Sleepwalkers, Christopher Clark, Ed Flammarion, 2013
The Trigger, Tim Butcher, Ed Chatto & Windus, 2014

Report by Stephanie Trouillard for FRANCE 24
© Gallica / BnF

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June 28, 1914 in Sarajevo
Two gunshots, one World War
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