How Archduke Ferdinand’s Assassination Almost Never Came to Be

The First World War carries undeniable weight in the way the world works today. Power distributions across the globe and the sheer existence of the nations in power might look completely different today had the war never occurred. Due to the vast number of fatalities suffered in the war, it is safe to say that even the population of living persons today might not be the same population that would have inhabited the world if not for WWI. This makes it all the more interesting that, if not for the death of one man, the War would never have come to fruition.

On June 28, 1914, a plan was carried out to assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the former Austro-Hungarian Empire (present-day Germany). He and his wife Sophie, the Duchess of Hohenberg, were well aware of this plan by Serb nationalists when they decided to travel through Bosnia, yet few precautions were taken to prevent the plot from happening. In what would seem to be a grave oversight, the public had even been made aware of where Ferdinand’s motorcade would be traveling and when it would be there, ensuring that the Black Hand assassins of Bosnia-Herzegovina had little effort before them in planning a full-proof assassination in detail, including automatic weapons, explosives, special training, suicide pills, and backup plans should one of them fail.

Interestingly enough, one of them did fail. Before the car arrived at the point in Sarajevo that would become fatal for Archduke Ferdinand and his wife, the motorcade stopped off to inspect a military barracks and then proceeded to drive by the Mostar Café garden, which is where the first assassin was hiding. The assassin threw a bomb at the car but missed, still damaging Ferdinand in the explosion. After speeding off to its next engagement, a reception at Town Hall, the motorcade stopped and discussed driving an alternate route.

Unfortunately, there was a failure to communicate with the motorcade drivers, and they continued along the previously scheduled route as planned. GavriloPrincip, Ferdinand’s assassin, was in wait along this route, though he almost missed his opportunity. Having gone inside of a store to buy a sandwich, he walked out in surprise as he saw the motorcade going by—in reverse. It was right in front of his waiting spot that the drivers were informed of their error, and the driver of Ferdinand’s car had begun to correct himself right before Princip’s eyes, the National Public Radio reports.

Ironically, had the driver continued on in error and not corrected his route, Princip’s shots may not have been so well-aligned. For all his training as an assassin, Princip could not have foreseen the future when he went in the store to buy his lunch. For all he knew when he saw Ferdinand’s motorcade, he had almost missed his chance, and the world as it now exists might bear no resemblance to the world that would now be inhabited had the Archduke’s driver not lined up Princip’s shots for him in such chaotic fashion.


Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE