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The Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand - A Quick Guide for KS2 and KS3 Students

Updated: Dec 4, 2020

Franz Ferdinand had a glorious mustache.

Franz Ferdinand & Austria-Hungary:

Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 1914, the Empire was expanding and taking control of many other countries in the region, which was causing tension in Europe.

One such country was Bosnia – they were conquered by Austria-Hungary in 1908. By 1914, the people of Bosnia wished to be an independent country, free from the rule of Austria-Hungary. The people of Serbia supported the Bosnians – though some historians suggest the Serbian Government wanted Bosnia for themselves.

The Archduke & his wife Sophie in Sarajevo

The Archduke Announces a Visit

When Archduke Franz Ferdinand announced a visit to Sarajevo in Bosnia to inspect the armed forces there, Bosnian and Serbian Nationalists (supporters of freedom for Bosnia) jumped at the opportunity to strike at Austria-Hungary.

The Archduke planned to visit on 28th June – Serbia’s National Day – which the Serbian’s took as an insult to their country. Seven Bosnian Serbs, armed with guns and bombs provided by a Serbian terrorist group - The Black Hand - planned to assassinate the Archduke as he drove around Sarajevo.

The Sarajevo police arrest the assassin.

The First Assassination Attempt

On 28th June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie arrived in Sarajevo by train at 9:28am. They joined a convoy of cars taking the Archduke down the main road towards the Town Hall. The assassins positioned themselves along the route and waited for the opportunity to strike.

A man named Nedeljko Cabrinovic was the first to seize an opportunity. He threw a bomb at the Archduke’s car which bounced off the chassis and landed under the car behind. The Archduke made a quick getaway to the Town Hall. Cabrinovic was arrested.

Gavrilo Princip shoots the Archduke

The Second Assassination Attempt

The Archduke decided to abandon his visit (no surprise there!) and take a different route home. But sadly nobody told the driver of his vehicle (doh!). On leaving Sarajevo, the driver took a wrong turn into Franz Josef Street, and stopped to turn around.

Unfortunately for the Archduke, the car stopped right in front of seventeen year old Gavrilo Princip, one of the Bosnian Serb assassins. He drew his gun and shot twice – hitting both the Archduke and his wife. By 11:30am Franz Ferdinand was dead.

The Aftermath

After the assassination, Gavrilo Princip attempted to kill himself with a cyanide pill so that he wouldn’t get caught. Awkwardly, the pill didn’t work and just made him very sick instead. He was arrested not long afterwards.

The assassins had got their way – the Archduke was dead and the Austro-Hungarians were outraged. A month later they declared war on Serbia. This was the start of the First World War.


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