June 28, 1914 – Archduke Ferdinand assassinated

June 28, 1914 – Archduke Ferdinand assassinated

In an event that is widely regarded as sparking the outbreak of World War I, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire, is shot to death along with his wife by a Serbian nationalist in Sarajevo, Bosnia.

Ferdinand had been inspecting his uncle’s imperial armed forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina, despite the threat of Serbian nationalists who wanted the Austrian possessions to join newly independent Serbia.

The archduke and his wife, Sophie, were touring Sarajevo in an open car with little security when Serbian nationalist Nedjelko Cabrinovic threw a bomb at their car. Ferdinand managed to deflect the bomb onto the street, but a dozen people, including Sophie, were injured.

Later in the day, the archduke and his wife were driving through Sarajevo’s streets again when their driver took a wrong turn onto a street named after the archduke’s uncle, Emperor Franz Joseph. As the car slowed to change direction, another Serbian nationalist, Gavrilo Princip, fired his pistol into the car, fatally wounding the archduke and his wife.

Austria-Hungary blamed the Serbian government for the attack and hoped to use the incident as justification for settling the question of Slav nationalism once and for all. However, as Russia supported Serbia, an Austro-Hungarian declaration of war was delayed until its leaders received assurances from German leader Kaiser Wilhelm that Germany would support their cause in the event of a Russian intervention.

On July 28, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, and the tenuous peace between Europe’s great powers collapsed. Within a week, Russia, Belgium, France, Great Britain, and Serbia had lined up against Austria-Hungary and Germany, and World War I had begun.