Eyewitness to the Death of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, 7/28/14

The assassination of the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, Archduke Franz Ferdinand on July 28, 1914, precipitated the First World War within five weeks, and would permanently alter the course of history. The Archduke and his wife, Sophie, were returning from a reception at the Sarajevo town hall when Gavrilo Princip shot them both at point blank range.

This website contains a wonderful set of resources on World War I, including maps, articles, and multimedia presentations. There are audio and video files from the period of the war which you can easily access from the site.

One interesting resource contained on the site is this eyewitness account of the death of the Archduke and his wife.The account is given by Count Franz von Harrach, who was with the royal couple in the car where they were shot.

As the car quickly reversed, a thin stream of blood spurted from His Highness’s mouth onto my right check.  As I was pulling out my handkerchief to wipe the blood away from his mouth, the Duchess cried out to him, “For God’s sake!  What has happened to you?”

At that she slid off the seat and lay on the floor of the car, with her face between his knees.

I had no idea that she too was hit and thought she had simply fainted with fright.  Then I heard His Imperial Highness say, “Sophie, Sophie, don’t die.  Stay alive for the children!”

At that, I seized the Archduke by the collar of his uniform, to stop his head dropping forward and asked him if he was in great pain.  He answered me quite distinctly, “It is nothing!”

His face began to twist somewhat but he went on repeating, six or seven times, ever more faintly as he gradually lost consciousness, “It’s nothing!”

Then came a brief pause followed by a convulsive rattle in his throat, caused by a loss of blood.  This ceased on arrival at the governor’s residence.

The two unconscious bodies were carried into the building where their death was soon established.


2 responses to “Eyewitness to the Death of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, 7/28/14

  1. Wow. I don't think anything can quite grasp your heart like that. I mean just imagine…Thank you for posting this Dr. Wilsey. The world can truly be a sick place.

  2. This really humanizes two people who had merely been names to me, characters in the impersonal cast of history, before reading this post. Thanks, John.

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