8 Famous Assassinations That Changed The Course Of History

Published October 20, 2018
Updated March 12, 2024

The Famous Assassinations Of Archduke And Duchess Franz Ferdinand

Portriat Assassination Franz Ferdinand

Wikimedia CommonsAn artist’s rendition of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand.

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the starting shot that set off a catastrophe. As an almost direct result of one man’s death, a world war was launched, empires were toppled, and well over 30 million people died.

Franz Ferdinand was killed by Gavrilo Princip, a Serbian nationalist fighting for his group’s independence. His nation had been annexed by the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1908. When Ferdinand, the heir to his enemy’s throne, rode through his Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, Princip and his co-conspirators jumped on the opportunity for revenge.

Franz Ferdinand Before Assassination

Wikimedia CommonsArchduke Franz Ferdinand, the man whose death was called “the shot heard around the world”. Circa 1914.

The first attempt on his life failed. On arriving in Sarajevo, the Archduke’s motorcade was attacked by one of Princip’s confederates with a hand grenade. The bomb missed, but the explosion injured passengers in the chase car behind the Archduke and his wife.

The pair, distraught over what had happened, decided to visit the injured in the hospital. Their trip, though, took them through a small side street, passing, by chance, a coffee shop where Princip was nursing his bitterness of he believed was a failed attempt at one of the great famous assassinations.

Gavrilo Princip Portrait

Wikimedia CommonsGavrilo Princip awaits trial for his part in one of the most famous assassinations in history. 1914.

Princip burst out of the shop with a pistol and fired. The first bullet went through the Archduke’s jugular vein; the second, by mistake, through the Archduke’s wife.

Princip tried to kill himself before they could get him. He leaped off the Latin Bridge, swallowed an expired cyanide pill, and tried to shoot himself, but none of it worked. The gendarmes wrestled him down.

But back up in the car, the dying Franz Ferdinand’s only thoughts were for his wife. In his last moments, he dismissed every worry about his own life, telling those with him, “It is nothing.” Instead, he just clung onto his wife, crying out:

“Sophie, Sophie! Don’t die! Live for our children!”

They would be the last words he would ever say to his wife. Neither of them survived.

Funeral Of The Ferdinands

Wikimedia CommonsThe funeral of Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie. 1914.

Mark Oliver
Mark Oliver is a writer and teacher, and father whose work has appeared on The Onion's StarWipe, Yahoo, and Cracked.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
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Oliver, Mark. "8 Famous Assassinations That Changed The Course Of History." AllThatsInteresting.com, October 20, 2018, https://allthatsinteresting.com/famous-assassinations. Accessed May 29, 2024.