What actually happened on June 28, 1914? Everyone knows that Gavrilo Princip assassinated the archduke of Austro-Hungary Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg. The event immediately caused the outbreak of the First World War. What is not known is that on the same day, Franz Ferdinand escaped after a first attempt of assassination when Nedeljko Cabrinovic threw a bomb towards Franz Ferdinand and his wife.
Nobody knows exactly. However, the testimonies gathered by the police, the acts of lawsuits (the last one happened in 1952), the investigations from historians and journalists allow us to make a clearer idea of the incident that fundamentally changed the course of history.
It all began in 1913 in Vienna, when the heir of the Austro-Hungarian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, committed to visit next year, along with his wife, in order to inspect the garrison troops in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Sophie was allowed, despite the imperial label specific to a morganatic marriage, to appear with her husband.
Therefore on June 28, 1914, Franz Ferdinand and Sophie attended the religious service at the chapel of the hotel where they were staying. After the ritual, the couple joined the cortege. Meanwhile, the Serbian extremists had divided into three groups in order to cover the main streets of the city. Their plan was simple: when Franz Ferdinand’s car reached one of their spots, they had to throw bombs to kill him.
However, their plan had three gaps. First of all they ignored the official guard of the Archduke. The second gap was regarded to the bombs. The bombs were too big to be hidden in the pocket and the mechanism was pretty complicated because the explosion time was around 12 seconds. The third gap was that all the three of them were young (17-19 years-old). Although they were determined, they had no experience.
A bomb, a gun and cyanide
The three young extremists left their initial spot. With the bombs hidden under their clothes, with a gun in their pockets and with a cyanide pill, the three young men broke up and each occupied their established position along the street. They knew that Franz Ferdinand usually was in the second car of the cortege. However, they did not know exactly if the Archduke was in the second or the third car.
When the car passed in front of the first men, nothing happened. A little further, the second extremist was determined to make the kill. Cabrinovic took the precaution to ask a nearby officer in which of the cars the archduke was. When the car reached near Cabrinovic, he ignited the bomb, but threw it away before waiting at least 10 seconds. The driver of the car heard the sound of the drop and he instinctively accelerated. Eventually, the bombs exploded near the car, but Franz Ferdinand was unharmed. Immediately after the explosion, Franz Ferdinand ordered the driver to stop to check if someone in the cortege was hurt or killed. However, the cortege resumed the route reaching the final destination, at the hotel.
Meanwhile, the police are starting to look for Cabrinovic and his possible accomplices. Cabrinovic swallowed the cyanide pill, but ironically it did not kill him. He was captured by the police and not knowing he didn’t kill the Archduke said he was a “Serbian hero”.
A tragic coincidence
At the hotel, Franz Ferdinand was calmed by his wife and later on he asked ironically the governor of the province if he still had to wait for another bomb. Potiorek assured him that this is not the case, but insists that the visit schedule should be changed. However, Franz Ferdinand decided to change the route, but at first he wanted to visit the hospital to check the injured people from the assassination attempt.
Finally, the couple leaves the hotel with a car escorted by a police car in front of them. However, the driver wasn’t informed about the route changes and he does a wrong turn. Governor Potiorek, seated near the driver started screaming and ordered the two drivers to turn around.
By a tragic coincidence, Gavrilo Princip was near. He probably was mad and angry because of the failure of the plan. He no longer had the necessary disposition to create a new plan and he had no intention of killing anymore. But suddenly, the imperial couple appears in front of his eyes less than two meters away. Gavrilo Princip still had the bomb and the gun on him. At first, he hesitated because the closest person to him was Sophie. But as you know, the killer acted instinctively and he pulled he triggered and fired.
The first bullet injured Franz Ferdinand, touching his jugular vein and the second hit Sophie in her abdomen. In the next minutes, the imperial car quickly turned to the Governor’s residence. No one has realized the severity of the injuries suffered by the two. Franz Ferdinand, still awake, was thinking about his wife. Sophie lost her consciousness 15 minutes after the shooting while Franz Ferdinand died 30 minutes after the shooting. One month later, Austro-Hungary declared war on Serbia.