Archduke Franz Ferdinand Carl Ludwig Joseph Maria of Austria was born on December 18, 1863, as the heir apparent to the Austria-Hungary throne. The most direct trigger for World War I was Ferdinand’s assassination in Sarajevo. He was Archduke Karl Ludwig of Austria’s oldest child. Ferdinand succeeded Karl Ludwig as the presumed heir to the Austro-Hungarian monarchy after the deaths of Crown Prince Rudolf in 1889 and Karl Ludwig in 1896. He was appointed inspector general of the Austro-Hungarian armed forces in 1913 and possessed considerable power within the military. Let’s pay tribute to this important historical figure right here.
Archduke Franz Ferdinand Carl Ludwig Joseph Maria of Austria
December 18, 1863
June 28, 1914 (age 50)
Franz Ferdinand Karl Ludwig Joseph was born on December 18, 1863, in Graz, Austria. He was the oldest child of Archduke Carl Ludwig and Princess Maria Annunciata of Bourbon-Two Sicilies, Ludwig’s second wife. Ferdinand had private tutoring throughout his early education. He was enlisted in the Austro-Hungarian army and advanced quickly. Until he was appointed a major general in 1896, he had five promotions. He led the Austro-Hungarian Empire and worked to keep the Habsburg dynasty in power. There were many different ethnic groups in the empire, and Ferdinand favored giving Serbia more autonomy because he was concerned that the suffering of the Slavs would trigger violence in the area. He also opposed overtly nationalist movements that would represent a challenge to the empire.
Crown Prince Rudolf, Ferdinand’s cousin, killed himself in his hunting cabin in Mayerling in 1889. As a result, Karl Ludwig, his father, who died from typhoid fever in 1896, became the first in line for the crown after which Ferdinand prepared to take the crown. Despite this responsibility, he found time for travel and other interests, including his 1892 to 1893 circumnavigation of the globe. Countess Sophie Maria Josephine Albina Chotek von Chotkova und Wognin was the first woman Ferdinand fell in love with and in 1899, after much discussion, they were wed. They wed on the condition that Sophie agreed that she and her children would not inherit any of her husband’s titles, privileges, or property. The couple had four children, one of whom died due to a miscarriage.
The governor of Bosnia-Herzegovina, on Austrian territory, General Oskar Potiorek, invited Ferdinand to Sarajevo in 1914 to examine the troops and on June 28, 1914, Ferdinand and his wife made the journey. Unbeknownst to them, Ferdinand’s assassination during that visit had been arranged by the Black Hand, a Serbian revolutionary organization. On June 28, 1914, a member of the organization threw a grenade at the couple as they were walking from the train station to the City Hall. The grenade instead struck the car behind them, critically injuring two occupants, when the driver accelerated after spotting something speeding through the air. Ferdinand and Sophie decided to visit those injured by the grenade at the hospital after meeting with Potiorek at City Hall. However, their driver took a false turn and sped straight past Gavrilo Princip, a member of the Black Hand, who pulled out a gun as the automobile slowly reversed out of the roadway and fired several shots into the vehicle, striking Sophie in the stomach and Franz Ferdinand in the neck. Before reaching the hospital, they both died. In the Austrian royal residence Artstetten Castle, Ferdinand was interred next to his wife. The vehicle in which they were assassinated is on exhibit, together with Ferdinand’s bloody uniform, at the Museum of Military History in Vienna, Austria.
Ferdinand joins the Austro-Hungarian army aged 12 and is rapidly promoted to a major-general by the time he is 31.
Ferdinand becomes the heir to Austria, after his cousin Rudolf, the Crown Prince of Austria, dies from suicide.
Despite his new responsibility as heir to the throne, he finds time for travel and other interests.
Ferdinand meets Sophie Chotek at a ball in Prague and has his mind set on marrying her.
Due to his popularity in the army, he is promoted to Inspector General of the Austro-Hungarian army.
After much reluctance, Ferdinand and his wife are invited to come to Bosnia-Herzegovina by the governor at the time.
After a failed first attempt, Gavrilo Princip, a member of the Black Hand, fires several shots into Ferdinand’s vehicle, killing both him and his wife.
Two months after the assassination of Ferdinand and his wife, Austro-Hungaria declares war on Serbia, which triggers the first world war.
Why We Love Franz Ferdinand
He married for love
Ferdinand fell in love with Countess Sophie Chotek, a Czech noblewoman who was the lady-in-waiting to Archduchess Isabella. Although the couple wasn’t allowed to marry initially because Sophie’s family weren’t aristocrats, they did eventually marry but only after giving up their children’s rights to the throne.
He was a family man
Other than his wife and three children, Ferdinand didn't connect with anyone very much. The "Archduke of Sarajevo" reported that when his wife was shot alongside him, he pleaded to her in his final moments, "Sopherl, Sopherl, don't die. Stay alive for the children!"
His legacy still holds weight today
'The Black Hand' targeted Ferdinand as a call for Serbian independence living in Bosnia, a part of the former Yugoslavia. Russia, an ally of Serbia at the time, joined the war against Austria-Hungary when that country reacted against Serbia, sparking a chain of conflicts that resulted in World War I. Following Germany's declaration of war against Russia, France joined forces with Russia, and when Germany attacked France via Belgium, Japan united with Germany.
5 Surprising Facts
He had unhealthy lungs
Ferdinand experienced Tuberculosis flare-ups throughout his 20s and early 30s.
He hunted nearly 300,000 animals
The archduke's rifle hunted tigers in India, kangaroos, emus, and wallabies in Australia, as well as stag and deer in the Austrian forests.
He loved roses
On his Konopischt estate grounds, thousands of rose bushes were laid out into a maze.
He could have avoided his assassination
Ferdinand disregarded warnings that the Serbian terrorist group 'The Black Hand' was planning to kill him during his state visit to Sarajevo; his wife also begged him not to go on Serbia's National Day.
He didn’t get along with his uncle
Emperor Franz Joseph and Ferdinand started fighting after Ferdinand suggested political changes that his uncle and the court didn't approve of.
Franz Ferdinand FAQs
How many times was Franz Ferdinand shot?
As the cars attempted to reverse back onto the Appel Quay, Princip whipped out his pistol and fired two shots at the archduke from point-blank range, piercing him in the neck and also striking Sophie’s abdomen.
What happened to Franz Ferdinand's children after his death?
The children were sent to live in Artstetten Castle.
Did Archduke Franz Ferdinand have siblings?
Yes, he had siblings.
Franz Ferdinand’s birthday dates