Archduke Franz Ferdinand (right) with his family
Franz Ferdinand (18 December 1863 28 June 1914) was an Archduke of Austria-Este, Austro-Hungarian and Royal Prince of Hungary and of Bohemia, and from 1889 until his death, heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne. His assassination in Sarajevo precipitated Austria-Hungary's declaration of war against Serbia. This caused the Central Powers (including Germany and Austria-Hungary) and the Allies of World War I (countries allied with Serbia) to declare war on each other, starting World War I.
He was born in Graz, Austria, the eldest son of Archduke Karl Ludwig of Austria (younger brother of Franz Joseph and Maximilian) and of his second wife, Princess Maria Annunciata of Bourbon-Two Sicilies. When he was only twelve years old, his cousin Duke Francis V of Modena died, naming Franz Ferdinand his heir on condition that he add the name Este to his own. Franz Ferdinand thus became one of the wealthiest men in Austria.
In 1889, Franz Ferdinand's life changed dramatically. His cousin Crown Prince Rudolf committed suicide at his hunting lodge in Mayerling, leaving Franz Ferdinand's father, Archduke Karl Ludwig, as first in line to the throne. However, his father died of typhoid fever after the Crown Prince's death. Henceforth, Franz Ferdinand was groomed to succeed. Despite this burden, he did manage to find time for travel and personal pursuits. for example, the time he spent hunting kangaroos and emus in Australia in 1893, and the return trip to Austria sailing across the Pacific on the RMS Empress of China from Yokohama to Vancouver.
Franz Ferdinand, like most males in the ruling Habsburg line, entered the army from a young age. He was frequently and rapidly promoted, given the rank of lieutenant at age fourteen, captain at twenty-two, colonel at twenty-seven, and major general at thirty-one. While never receiving formal staff training, he was considered eligible for command and at one point briefly led the primarily Hungarian 9th Hussar Regiment. In 1898 he was given a commission "at the special disposition of His Majesty" to make inquiries into all aspects of the military services and military agencies were commanded to share their papers with him.
He exerted influence on the armed forces even when he did not hold a specific command through a military chancery that produced and received documents and papers on military affairs. This was headed by Alexander Brosch von Aarenau and eventually employed a staff of sixteen..
Franz in 1913, as heir-presumptive to the elderly emperor, had been appointed inspector general of all the armed forces of Austria-Hungary (Generalinspektor der gesamten bewaffneten Macht), a position superior to that previously held by Archduke Albrecht and including presumed command in wartime.
Marriage and family
In 1894 Franz Ferdinand met Countess Sophie Chotek at a ball in Prague. To be an eligible marriage partner for a member of the Imperial House of Habsburg, one had to be a member of one of the reigning or formerly reigning dynasties of Europe. The Choteks were not one of these families, although they did include among their ancestors, in the female line, princes of Baden, Hohenzollern-Hechingen, and Liechtenstein. One of Sophie's direct ancestors was Albert IV, Count of Habsburg; she was descended from Elisabeth of Habsburg, a sister of King Rudolph I of Germany. Franz Ferdinand was a descendant of King Rudolph I. Sophie was a lady-in-waiting to Archduchess Isabella, wife of Archduke Friedrich, Duke of Teschen. Franz Ferdinand began to visit Archduke Friedrich's villa in Pressburg (now Bratislava). Sophie wrote to Franz Ferdinand during his convalescence from tuberculosis on the island of Lo inj in the Adriatic. They kept their relationship a secret for more than two years.
Deeply in love, Franz Ferdinand refused to consider marrying anyone else. Pope Leo XIII, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, and the German Emperor Wilhelm II all made representations on his behalf to Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria, arguing that the disagreement between Franz Joseph and Franz Ferdinand was undermining the stability of the monarchy.
Finally, in 1899, Emperor Franz Joseph agreed to permit Franz Ferdinand to marry Sophie, on condition that the marriage would be morganatic and that their descendants would not have succession rights to the throne. Sophie would not share her husband's rank, title, precedence, or privileges; as such, she would not normally appear in public beside him. She would not be allowed to ride in the royal carriage or sit in the royal box.
The wedding took place on 1 July 1900, at Reichstadt (now Z kupy) in Bohemia; Franz Joseph did not attend the affair, nor did any archduke including Franz Ferdinand's brothers. The only members of the imperial family who were present were Franz Ferdinand's stepmother, Princess Maria Theresa of Braganza, and her two daughters. Upon the marriage, Sophie was given the title "Princess of Hohenberg" (F rstin von Hohenberg) with the style "Her Serene Highness" (Ihre Durchlaucht). In 1909, she was given the more senior title "Duchess of Hohenberg" (Herzogin von Hohenberg) with the style "Her Highness" (Ihre Hoheit). This raised her status considerably, but she still yielded precedence at court to all the archduchesses. Whenever a function required the couple to gather with the other members of royalty, Sophie was forced to stand far down the line of importance, separated from her husband.
Franz Ferdinand's children were:
- Princess Sophie von Hohenberg (1901 1990), married Count Friedrich von Nostitz-Rieneck (1891 1973)
- Maximilian, Duke of Hohenberg (1902 1962), married Countess Elisabeth von Waldburg zu Wolfegg und Waldsee (1904 1993)
- Prince Ernst von Hohenberg (1904 1954), married Marie-Therese Wood (1910 1985)
- Stillborn son Maximilian (1908-1908), buried in Artstetten Castle, near his parents
The German historian Michael Freund described Franz Ferdinand as "a man of uninspired energy, dark in appearance and emotion, who radiated an aura of strangeness and cast a shadow of violence and recklessness ... a true personality amidst the amiable inanity that characterized Austrian society at this time." As his sometime admirer Karl Kraus put it, "he was not one who would greet you ... he felt no compulsion to reach out for the unexplored region which the Viennese call their heart." His relations with Emperor Franz Joseph were tense; the emperor's personal servant recalled in his memoirs that "thunder and lightning always raged when they had their discussions." The commentaries and orders which the heir to the throne wrote as margin notes to the documents of the Imperial central commission for architectural conservation (where he was Protector) reveal what can be described as "choleric conservativism."
Franz Ferdinand had a fondness for trophy hunting that was excessive even by the standards of European nobility of this time. In his diaries he kept track of an estimated 300,000 game kills, 5,000 of which were deer. Approximately 100,000 trophies were on exhibit at his Bohemian castle at Konopi t , which he also stuffed with various antiquities, his other great passion.
federalization of Austria-Hungary]] planned by Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the member states with separate governments
Historians have disagreed on how to characterize the political philosophies of Franz Ferdinand, some attributing generally liberal views on the empire's nationalities while others have emphasized his dynastic centralism, Catholic conservatism, and tendency to clash with other leaders. He advocated granting greater autonomy to ethnic groups within the Empire and addressing their grievances, especially the Czechs in Bohemia and the Yugoslavic peoples in Croatia and Bosnia, who had been left out of the Austro-Hungarian compromise of 1867. Yet his feelings towards the Hungarians were less generous; he regarded Magyar nationalism as a revolutionary threat to the Habsburg dynasty and reportedly became angry when officers of the 9th Hussars Regiment (which he commanded) spoke Magyar in his presence - despite the fact that it was the official regimental language. He further regarded the Hungarian branch of the Dual Monarchy's army, the Honv ds g, as an unreliable and potentially threatening force within the empire, complaining at the Hungarians' failure to provide funds for the joint army and opposing the formation of artillery units within the Hungarian forces.
He also advocated a careful approach towards Serbia - repeatedly locking horns with Franz Conrad von H tzendorf, Vienna's hard-line Chief of the General Staff, warning that harsh treatment of Serbia would bring Austria-Hungary into open conflict with Russia, to the ruin of both Empires.
He was disappointed when Austria-Hungary failed to act as a Great Power, such as during the Boxer Rebellion; in 1900 other nations, including, in his description, "dwarf states like Belgium and Portugal", sent troops to protect Westerners and punish the Chinese, but Austria-Hungary did not.
Franz Ferdinand was a prominent and influential supporter of the Austro-Hungarian Navy in a time when sea power was not a priority in Austrian foreign policy and the Navy was relatively little known and supported by the public. After his assassination in 1914, the Navy honoured Franz Ferdinand and his wife with a lying in state aboard the SMS Viribus Unitis.
The 1911 Gr f & Stift Bois de Boulogne tourer in which Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were riding at the time of their assassination is now located in Heeresgeschichtliches Museum in Vienna Franz Ferdinand's blood-stained uniform
On Sunday, 28 June 1914, at approximately 10:45 am, Franz Ferdinand and his wife were killed in Sarajevo, the capital of the Austro-Hungarian province of Bosnia and Herzegovina, by Gavrilo Princip, 19 at the time, a member of Young Bosnia and one of a group of assassins organized by the Black Hand. The event led to a chain of events that eventually triggered World War I.
The couple had previously been attacked when a grenade was thrown at their car. Ferdinand deflected the grenade and it detonated far behind them. He is known to have shouted in anger to local officials, "So you welcome your guests with bombs?!"
The royal couple insisted on seeing all those injured at the hospital. After travelling there, Franz and Sophie decided to go to the palace, but their driver took a wrong turn onto a side street, where Princip spotted them. As the car was backing up, Princip approached and shot Sophie in the abdomen and Franz Ferdinand in the jugular. He was still alive when witnesses arrived to render aid. His dying words to Sophie were, 'Don't die darling, live for our children.' Princip had used the Browning .32 ACP cartridge, a relatively low-power round, and a pocket-sized FN model 1910 pistol. The archduke's aides attempted to undo his coat but realized they needed scissors to cut it open. It was too late; he died within minutes. Sophie also died on route to the hospital.
A detailed account of the shooting can be found in Sarajevo by Joachim Remak:
One bullet pierced Franz Ferdinand's neck while the other pierced Sophie's abdomen. ... As the car was reversing (to go back to the Governor's residence because the entourage thought the Imperial couple were unhurt) a thin streak of blood shot from the Archduke's mouth onto Count Harrach's right cheek (he was standing on the car's running board). Harrach drew out a handkerchief to still the gushing blood. The Duchess, seeing this, called: "For Heaven's sake! What happened to you?" and sank from her seat, her face falling between her husband's knees.
Harrach and Potoriek ... thought she had fainted ... only her husband seemed to have an instinct for what was happening. Turning to his wife despite the bullet in his neck, Franz Ferdinand pleaded: "Sopherl! Sopherl! Sterbe nicht! Bleibe am Leben f r unsere Kinder! - Sophie dear! Don't die! Stay alive for our children!". Having said this, he seemed to sag down himself. His plumed hat ... fell off; many of its green feathers were found all over the car floor. Count Harrach seized the Archduke by the uniform collar to hold him up. He asked "Leiden Eure Kaiserliche Hoheit sehr? - Is Your Imperial Highness suffering very badly?" "Es ist nichts - It is nothing" said the Archduke in a weak but audible voice. He seemed to be losing consciousness during his last few minutes, but, his voice growing steadily weaker, he repeated the phrase perhaps six or seven times more.
A rattle began to issue from his throat, which subsided as the car drew in front of the Konak bersibin (Town Hall). Despite several doctors' efforts, the Archduke died shortly after being carried into the building while his beloved wife was almost certainly dead from internal bleeding before the motorcade reached the Konak.
The assassinations, along with the arms race, nationalism, imperialism, militarism, and the alliance system all contributed to the origins of World War I, which began less than two months after Franz Ferdinand's death, with Austria-Hungary's declaration of war against Serbia. The assassination of Ferdinand is considered the most immediate cause of World War I.
Franz Ferdinand is interred with his wife Sophie in Artstetten Castle, Austria.
Monogram The Castle of Artstetten commemorative coin]] Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his Castle of Artstetten were selected as a main motif for the Austrian 10 euro The Castle of Artstetten commemorative coin, minted on 13 October 2004. The reverse shows the entrance to the crypt of the Hohenberg family. There are two portraits below, showing Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg.
- List of heirs to the Austrian throne
- Assassination of Franz Ferdinand
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