Weird History 7 Insane Facts About the Absurd Circumstances of Franz Ferdinand's Assassination  

H Alan Scott
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History has a way of proving itself to be awesomely weird. Never was this more true than the case of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. His death led to the start of World War I, and proved if at first you don’t succeed as an assassin, try, try again. Who was Franz Ferdinand's assassin, anyway? Seriously, how does the guy who dies get more credit for the fallout from his death than the guy who killed him? Well, his name was Gavrilo Princip, and he was the beneficiary or some absurd coincidences.  

If you've ever found yourself up late at night, staring into a glass of water as your eyes adjust to the dim light of the clock on the microwave, wondering "Why was Franz Ferdinand assassinated?" or "Who assassinated Franz Ferdinand?", this list is your salvation. In fact, you'll learn a lot more than the answers to those questions. Did you known a member of the assassination plot failed two suicide attempts as police closed in on him? Or that the mechanics of Ferdinand's car may have contributed to his death?

Read on to learn all the Franz Ferdinand assassin facts you'll need to impress your friends at your next assassination-themed party. 

Ferdinand Survived the First Assassination Attempt Because of the Delay on a Grenade


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Photo: Photographer UnknownCreative Commons

Leave it to a pesky grenade to ruin a perfectly good parade.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, visited Sarajevo to commemorate Bosnia’s induction into the empire on June 28th, 1914. A group of Serbian rebels learned of his plans and decided to assassinate the archduke to protest Bosnia’s inclusion in the empire, feeling Bosnia should be part of a unified Serbian federal nation instead.

Armed with grenades and pistols, strategically placed along the parade route, the rebels had an assassin among them: Gavrilo Princip, trained by the secret Serbian society Black Hand. Princip eventually killed Ferdinand, but the first blow came from rebel Nedeljko Cabrinovic, who threw a grenade at the archduke’s open-top car. The grenade bounced off the car and landed on the car directly behind it, injuring many, but not the archduke; he was able to escape unharmed thanks to the grenade's 10-second delay.

Would-Be Assassin N. Cabrinovic Failed to Kill Himself Twice After Tossing His Grenade


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Photo: Photographer UnknownPublic Domain

After Nedjelko Cabrinovic hurled his grenade at Ferdinand, he attempted suicide with a vial of cyanide, something all the rebels had to avoid arrest. Unfortunately, the cyanide was weak and only made Cabrinovic sick. In a panic, he jumped off a bridge, but survived the fall because the river was only 4 inches deep. Ouch. Standing in shallow water with a broken leg, puking thanks to his out-of-date poison, Cabrinovic was arrested. A similar fate awaited Princip, though he and the other rebels were able to get away amidst the panic of the crowd, in the wake of the first, failed assassination attempt.

Ferdinand Made a Last Minute Change to His Schedule That F*cked Up the Whole 20th Century


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Photo: Carl Pietzner/Library of Congress/Public Domain

After Cabrinovic's catastrophic attempt to assassinate Ferdinand, Princip and the other rebels disbanded, each going his separate way. While Princip allegedly looked for a bite to eat, Ferdinand and his wife, Sarah, went to the town hall for a previously scheduled meeting with local officials.

A few hours later, after the streets had returned to relative normalcy, Franz and Sarah planned to leave the town hall, though Franzy changed his mind, deciding he wanted to do the honorable thing and visit an officer injured in the morning’s blast. This change of plans proved to be the worst last-minute decision in the 20th century, because it delivered him right into the hands of Gavrilo Princip. 

Ferdinand's Driver Got Lost and Stopped Right Where Princip Was Randomly Standing


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Photo: Photographer UnknownPublic Domain

After the blast, Princip ended up in the vicinity of Mortiz Schiller’s delicatessen, on Franz Joseph Street. There’s some debate as to whether Princip was eating a sandwich or just standing near the deli (more likely than not it's the latter; apparently Serbs don't even eat sandwiches). Regardless, if Ferdinand’s last minute change-of-plans was the 20th century’s worst decision, Princip going to Mortiz’s was the luckiest (for him, at least).

Ferdinand’s driver wasn’t familiar with the streets of Sarajevo and got lost on the way to the hospital. Amidst his confusion, he pulled up in front of Mortiz’s. Princip noticed and took his shot.