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Archduke Franz Ferdinand
Preceded by Francis II
Succeeded by Charles
Personal details
Born (1863-12-18)18 December 1863
Graz, Austrian Empire
Died 28 June 1914(1914-06-28) (aged 50)
Sarajevo, Austria-Hungary
Spouse(s) Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg
Religion Roman Catholic

Archduke Franz Ferdinand (right) with his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg and their three children, Princess Sophie, Maximilian, Duke of Hohenburg and Prince Ernst von Hohenberg in 1910

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.[1]

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 or Serbia's allies) to declare war on each other, starting World War I.[2][3][4]

Early life

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 eleven 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.

Heir presumptive

In 1889, Franz Ferdinand's life changed dramatically. His cousin Crown Prince Rudolf committed suicide at his hunting lodge in Mayerling.[5] This left Franz Ferdinand's father, Karl Ludwig, as first in line to the throne. Karl Ludwig renounced the throne in favor of Franz Ferdinand almost immediately, and died of typhoid fever in 1896.[6] Henceforth, Franz Ferdinand was groomed to succeed to the throne. Despite this burden, he did manage to find time for travel and personal pursuits, such as the time he spent hunting kangaroos and emus in Australia in 1893,[7] on to New Zealand, Nouméa, New Hebrides, Solomon Islands, New Guinea, Sarawak, Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan,[8] and the return trip to Austria sailing across the Pacific on the RMS Empress of China from Yokohama to Vancouver.[9]

Military career

Franz Ferdinand, like most males in the ruling Habsburg line, entered the Austro-Hungarian Army at 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.[10] While never receiving formal staff training, he was considered eligible for command and at one point briefly led the primarily Hungarian 9th Hussar Regiment.[11] 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.[12]

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.[12]

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.[13]

Marriage and family

In 1894 Franz Ferdinand met Countess Sophie Chotek at a ball in Prague. To be eligible to marry 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 Lošinj in the Adriatic. They kept their relationship a secret for more than two years.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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.[5] 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 in theaters.[citation needed]

The wedding took place on 1 July 1900, at Reichstadt (now Zákupy) in Bohemia; Franz Joseph did not attend the affair, nor did any archduke including Franz Ferdinand's brothers.[5] 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" (Fürstin 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 assemble with the other members of the imperial family, Sophie was forced to stand far down the line, separated from her husband.[citation needed]

Franz Ferdinand's children were:

  • Princess Sophie of 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 of Hohenberg (1904–1954), married Marie-Therese Wood (1910–1985)
  • Stillborn son (1908), buried in Artstetten Castle, near his parents[14][15]


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."[16] 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."[17] 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."[18] 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."[19] The Italian historian Leo Valiani provided the following description.

Francis Ferdinand was a prince of absolutist inclinations, but he had certain intellectual gifts and undoubted moral earnestness. One of his projects--though because of his impatient, suspicious, almost hysterical temperament, his commitment to it, and the methods by which he proposed to bring it about, often changed--was to consolidate the structure of the state and the authority and popularity of the Crown, on which he saw clearly that the fate of the dynasty depended, by abolishing, if not the dominance of the German Austrians, which he wished to maintain for military reasons, though he wanted to diminish it in the civil administration, certainly the far more burdensome sway of the Magyars over the Slav and Romanian nationalities which in 1848-49 had saved the dynasty in armed combat with the Hungarian revolution. Baron Margutti, Francis Joseph's aide-de-camp, was told by Francis Ferdinand in 1895 and--with a remarkable consistency in view of the changes that took place in the intervening years--again in 1913, that the introduction of the dual system in 1867 had been disastrous and that, when he ascended the throne, he intended to re-establish strong central government: this objective, he believed, could be attained only by the simultaneous granting of far-reaching administrative autonomy to all the nationalities of the monarchy. In a letter of February 1, 1913, to Berchtold, the Foreign Minister, in which he gave his reasons for not wanting war with Serbia, the Archduke said that "irredentism in our country ... will cease immediately if our Slavs are given a comfortable, fair and good life" instead of being trampled on (as they were being trampled on by the Hungarians). It must have been this which caused Berchtold, in a character sketch of Francis Ferdinand written ten years after his death, to say that, if he had succeeded to the throne, he would have tried to replace the dual system by a supranational federation.[20]

Franz Ferdinand had a fondness for trophy hunting that was excessive even by the standards of European nobility of this time.[21] 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 Konopiště[22][23] which he also stuffed with various antiquities, his other great passion.[24]

Political views

Map of the 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.[10] He advocated granting greater autonomy to ethnic groups within the Empire and addressing their grievances, especially the Czechs in Bohemia and the south Slavic peoples in Croatia and Bosnia, who had been left out of the Austro-Hungarian compromise of 1867.[25] Yet his feelings towards the Hungarians were less generous, often described as antipathy. For example, in 1904 he wrote that "The Hungarians are all rabble, regardless of whether they are minister or duke, cardinal or burgher, peasant, hussar, domestic servant, or revolutionary" and he regarded even István Tisza as a revolutionary and "patented traitor".[26] He regarded Hungarian nationalism as a revolutionary threat to the Habsburg dynasty and reportedly became angry when officers of the 9th Hussars Regiment (which he commanded) spoke Hungarian in his presence - despite the fact that it was the official regimental language.[11] He further regarded the Hungarian branch of the Dual Monarchy’s army, the Honvédség, as an unreliable and potentially threatening force within the empire, complaining at the Hungarians' failure to provide funds for the joint army[27] and opposing the formation of artillery units within the Hungarian forces.[28]

He also advocated a careful approach towards Serbia - repeatedly locking horns with Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf, 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",[29] had soldiers stationed in China, but Austria-Hungary did not. However, Austria-Hungary did participate in the Eight-Nation Alliance to suppress the Boxers, and sent soldiers as part of the "international relief force".

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 SMS Viribus Unitis.


As described by contemporary Spanish magazine El Mundo Gráfico: "The moment when the Austrian archdukes, following the first attempt against their lifes, arrived at the City Council (of Sarajevo), where they were received by the mayor and the municipal corporation."

The 1911 Gräf & 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 the Museum of Military History in Vienna

Franz Ferdinand's blood-stained uniform

Latin bridge (prev. Princip bridge) in Sarajevo. Across the bridge is a street of several grayish houses not more than four stories high.
The Latin Bridge near the assassination site
The bluish-tinted stamp shows Sophia, duchess of Hohenberg on the left, and Franz Ferdinand on the right. The stamp is titled "Militärpost" ("Military Mail") at the top, and the date of the couple's deaths at the bottom.
Austria-Hungary commemorative postage stamp

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.[4] The event led to a chain of events that eventually triggered World War I.

Earlier in the day the couple had been attacked by a Nedeljko Čabrinović, who had thrown a grenade at their car. However, the bomb detonated behind them, hurting the occupants in the following car. On arriving at the Governor's residence Franz angrily shouted, "So this is how you welcome your guests - with bombs?!"[30]

After a short rest at the Governor's residence the royal couple insisted on seeing all those who had been injured by the bomb at the local hospital. Unfortunately, no one told the drivers that the itinerary had been changed. When the error was discovered the drivers had to turn around. As the cars backed down the street and onto a side street, the line of cars stalled. At this same time Princip was sitting at a cafe across the street. He instantly seized his opportunity and walked across the street and shot the royal couple.[30] He first shot Sophie in the abdomen and then Franz Ferdinand shot in the neck. Franz leaned over his wife crying. He was still alive when witnesses arrived to render aid.[4] His dying words to Sophie were, 'Don't die darling, live for our children.'[30] Princip's weapon was the Browning .32 ACP cartridge,[31][32][33] a relatively low-power round, and a pocket-sized FN model 1910 pistol.[34] 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 en route to the hospital.[35]

A detailed account of the shooting can be found in Sarajevo by Joachim Remak:[36]

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 für 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 a month after Franz Ferdinand's death, with Austria-Hungary's declaration of war against Serbia.[37] The assassination of Ferdinand is considered the most immediate cause of World War I.[38]

Franz Ferdinand is interred with his wife Sophie in Artstetten Castle, Austria.



File:2004 Austria 10 Euro The Castle of Artstetten back.jpg

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.[39]

The British band Franz Ferdinand named themselves after him.[40]

See also

  • List of heirs to the Austrian throne
  • Assassination of Franz Ferdinand




  1. Brook-Shepherd, Gordon (1987). Royal Sunset: The European Dynasties and the Great War. Doubleday. p. 139. ISBN 978-0-385-19849-3. 
  2. Marshall, S.L.A. (2001). World War I. Mariner Books. p. 1. ISBN 0-618-05686-6. 
  3. Keegan, John (2000). The First World War. Vintage. p. 48. ISBN 0-375-70045-5. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Johnson, Lonnie (1989). Introducing Austria: A Short History (Studies in Austrian Literature, Culture, and Thought). Ariadne Press. pp. 52–54. ISBN 0-929497-03-1. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Brook-Shepherd, Gordon (1997). The Austrians: A Thousand-Years Odyssey. Carroll & Graf. pp. 107, 125–126. ISBN 0-7867-0520-5. 
  6. "The Crown Prince’s Successor". The New York Times. 2 February 1889.  Accessed 22 May 2009.
  7. "The Archduke Franz Ferdinand". The Argus (Australia). 23 May 1895.  Accessed 28 June 2010
  8. Australian Town and Country Journal, 15 April 1893, p. 29; Retrieved 2 September 2013
  9. Katalog Land in Sicht!: Österreich auf weiter Fahrt (Catalogue Land Ahoy!: Austria on the Seven Seas). (in PDF and in German language) p. 8. Exhibition by the Austrian Mint, 17 August - 3 February 2006. Münze Österreich (Austrian Mint). Accessed 22 May 2009.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Rothenburg, G. The Army of Francis Joseph. West Lafayette: Purdue University Press, 1976. p 141.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Rothenburg 1976, p. 120.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Rothenburg 1976, p. 141.
  13. Rothenburg 1976, p. 170.
  14. Schwarz, Otto. Hinter den Fassaden der Ringstrasse: Geschichte, Menschen, Geheimnisse. Amalthea, Vienna, 2007, ISBN 9783850025898, p. 26 (German)
  15. The Family Crypt, Artstetten Castle.
  16. Freund, Michael: Deutsche Geschichte. Die Große Bertelsmann Lexikon-Bibliothek, Bd. 7. C. Bertelsmann Verlag, 1961. p.901
  17. Die Fackel. Issue July 10, 1914
  18. Ketterl, Eugen. Der alte Kaiser wie nur einer ihn sah. Cissy Klastersky (ed.), Gerold & Co., Vienna 1929
  19. Brückler, Theodor: Franz Ferdinand als Denkmalpfleger. Die "Kunstakten" der Militärkanzlei im Österreichischen Staatsarchiv. Böhlau Verlag, Vienna 2009. ISBN 978-3-205-78306-0
  20. Valiani, Leo, The End of Austria-Hungary, Alfred A. Knopf, New York (1973) pp. 9-10 [translation of: La Dissoluzione dell'Austria-Ungheria, Casa Editrice Il Saggiatore, Milano (1966) pp. 19-20]
  21. Wladimir Aichelburg, Erzherzog Franz Ferdinand von Österreich-Este und Artstetten, Vienna: Lehner, 2000, ISBN 978-3-901749-18-6, p. 31 (German): "Tatsächlich war Franz Ferdinand ein außergewöhnlich leidenschaftlicher Jäger" - "It is a fact that Franz Ferdinand was an unusually passionate hunter."
  22. Michael Hainisch, ed. Friedrich Weissensteiner, 75 Jahre aus bewegter Zeit: Lebenserinnerungen eines österreichischen Staatsmannes, Veröffentlichungen der Kommission für neuere Geschichte Österreichs 64, Vienna: Böhlau, 1978, ISBN 978-3-205-08565-2, p. 367 (German): "Konopischt ... das einst dem Erzherzoge Franz Ferdinand gehört hatte. Das Schloß ist voller Jagdtrophäen" - "Konopiště ... which once belonged to Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The castle is full of hunting trophies."
  23. Neil Wilson and Mark Baker, Prague: City Guide, Lonely Planet City Guide, 9th ed. Footscray, Victoria / Oakland, California / London: Lonely Planet, 2010, ISBN 978-1-74179-668-1, p. 237.
  24. Thomas Veszelits, Prag, HB-Bildatlas 248, Ostfildern: HB, 2003, ISBN 978-3-616-06152-8, p. 106. (German): "Jagdtrophäen, Waffen aus drei Jahrhunderten und Kunstschätze füllten die Räume" - "Hunting trophies, weapons dating to three centuries, and art treasures filled the rooms."
  25. Morton, Frederick (1989). Thunder at Twilight: Vienna 1913/1914. Scribner. p. 191. ISBN 978-0-684-19143-0. 
  26. Köpeczi, Béla (General Editor); Szász, Zoltán (Editor) (1994). History of Transylvania. Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó. ISBN 963-05-6703-2. 
  27. Rothenburg 1976, p. 147.
  28. Rothenburg 1976, p. 133.
  29. Rothenburg 1976, p. 136.
  30. 30.0 30.1 30.2 Beyer, Rick, The Greatest Stories Never Told, A&E Television Networks / The History Channel, ISBN 0-06-001401-6. p. 146-147
  31. Johnson, Melvin Maynard; Charles Tower Haven (1941). Automatic arms: their history, development and use. W. Marrow and co. p. 46. 
  32. Weir, William R (2005). Turning points in military history. Citadel. p. 142. ISBN 978-0-8065-2627-0. "The spark was supplied by a .32 caliber pistol" 
  33. Miller, David (2006). The History of Browning Firearms: Fortifications Around the World. The Lyons Press. p. 128. ISBN 978-1-59228-910-3. 
  34. Belfield, Richard. The Assassination Business: A History of State-Sponsored Murder. Carroll & Graf. ISBN 978-0-7867-1343-1. 
  35. MacDonogh, Giles (2003). The Last Kaiser: The Life of Wilhelm II. St. Martin's Griffin. p. 351. ISBN 978-0-312-30557-4. 
  36. Remak, Joachim (1959). Sarajevo: The Story of a Political Murder. Criterion. pp. 137–142. ASIN B001L4NB5U. (ASIN B001L4NB5U)
  37. Johnson. p. 56
  38. John McCannon, PhD. - AP World History - Copyright 2010, 2008, Barron's Educational Series, Inc. - page 9.
  39. Austrian 10-Euro Coins. (2002-10-09). Retrieved on 2013-08-16.
  40. How Franz Ferdinand & Kasabian Got Their Band Names???. Retrieved on 2013-08-16.

External links

Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria
House of Habsburg-Lorraine
Cadet branch of the House of Lorraine
Born: 18 December 1863 Died: 28 June 1914
Royal titles
Preceded by
Francis II
Archduke of Austria-Este
Succeeded by
Titles in pretence
Preceded by
Francis V
Duke of Modena
Succeeded by

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