The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria on June 28th 1914 will forever be remembered as one of the key turning points in twentieth century world history. Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife Sophie were shot dead in Sarajevo by Gavrilo Princip, a member of the Black Hand gang, a group of Serbian nationalists, whose aim was to free Serbia of the rule of the Austro-Hungarian empire. The assassination of its heir presumptive gave Austria-Hungary the opportunity to settle some old scores and declare war on Serbia, which, in turn, precipitated a political crisis between the major European powers, and this, in turn, triggered a chain of events which led directly to the outbreak of the First World War. This feature will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Sarajevo assassination and explore how the event and its consequences are represented in the UL’s German collections.
From an early age, Franz Ferdinand pursued a military career in the Austro-Hungarian army and became heir to the Habsburg throne following the suicide of his cousin Crown Prince Rudolf at the famous hunting lodge in Mayerling in 1889. There was tension in his relationship with Emperor Franz Joseph, but historians have differed regarding the nature of Franz Ferdinand’s political views. Some historians emphasise his liberalism compared to the emperor, especially his advocacy of greater autonomy for ethnic groups within the Austro-Hungarian empire, whilst others emphasise his Catholic conservatism and absolutist belief in Austro-Hungarian dynastic rule.