The Assassination of Franz Ferdinand Came Down to a Wrong Turn

You probably know a little bit about the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. During his visit to Sarajevo, Bosnia, on June 28, 1914, Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were killed by Bosnian Serb student and terrorist Gavrilo Princip. The event is often credited for starting World War I. However, did you know that Ferdinand might still be alive and WWI would perhaps be avoided if it wasn’t for a wrong turn?

At the time of Franz Ferdinand’s visit to Sarajevo, Bosnia was under the rule of Austria-Hungary. There was a growing movement in the country, mainly among Bosnian Serbs, to end Austria-Hungary’s reign in Bosnia and make it part of “Greater Serbia”.

Upon learning of Ferdinand’s visit to Sarajevo, a group of students and other members of the Bosnian Serb nationalist group conceived a plan to assassinate the heir to the Austria-Hungary throne. Considering Ferdinand was set to take a tour around the city in an open-top convertible, their plan was to throw an exploding device in the car.

While the assassins got their shot, they missed, and the device bounced from the car transporting Ferdinand and Sophie. Instead, it fell under another car in the motorcade injuring dozens of people, including several soldiers.

Despite the incident, Ferdinand and Sophie decided to proceed with their visit as usual. After attending a Town Hall reception, the couple decided to visit wounded soldiers in the city hospital.

Ferdinand’s motorcade opted for a different route, deciding to take the Appel Quay, which runs parallel to the Miljacka River bank. At one point, the motorcade took a wrong turn and entered a blind street. The car that carried Ferdinand and Sophie attempted to go in reverse but stalled. It turned out to be the street where Princip was on the lookout, hoping to get another chance at assassinating Ferdinand.

As soon as the car came to a halt, Princip took out his gun, approached the car, and assassinated both Ferdinand and Sophie.

The aftermath was that Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, which spiraled into World War I after the inclusion of other countries.

Princip was thrown into jail and sentenced to 20 years in prison. However, he would die several years later from tuberculosis.

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