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

H Alan Scott
32.3k views 7 items

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. 

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The Crappy Reverse Function on the Archduke's Car Played a Part in His Death
The Crappy Reverse Function on... is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list 7 Insane Facts About the Absurd Circumstances of Franz Ferdinand's Assassination
Photo: Achille Beltrame/Public Domain

The stage was set - Princip was in the right place at the right time, the archduke's driver was hopelessly lost. Princip took his shot while Ferdinand's driver was (manually) pushing the car in reverse down the narrow street where Mortiz’s deli was located.

Contrary to popular myth, the car did have a reverse function, though that function was a pain the ass to use, given how laborious and time consuming it was. It was easier, therefore, for the driver to push the car, thereby giving Princip the opportunity to realize who was in the car, and ample time to take his shot. 

Princip Started WWI with Two Bullets, Killing Ferdinand, His Wife, and 18 Million Others
Princip Started WWI with Two B... is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list 7 Insane Facts About the Absurd Circumstances of Franz Ferdinand's Assassination
Photo: Photographer Unknown/Public Domain

Princip fired just two shots, but managed to kill both Ferdinand and his pregnant wife, Sarah. Princip later said he never intended to kill Sarah, and was aiming for General Oskar Potiorek, military governor of Bosnia. He also got really lucky in killing the archduke - somehow, the one shot he fired nicked Ferdinand's carotid artery, and he bled out in minutes. 

Panicked, Princip swallowed his vial of cyanide, which was weak and only made Princip sick (it must've come from the same worthless batch as Cabrinovic's). Cyanide-induced sickness made Princip easy to catch. The archduke’s driver tackled him, and he was arrested. In the days after the assassination, all the other rebels were arrested.

News spread quickly (for 1914), and exactly a month later, Austria-Hungary held Serbia responsible for the assassination and declared war, leading to World War I. All because a 19-year-old kid just happened to be in the right place at the right time. 

Princip, a Minor, Avoided the Death Penalty Only to Die Miserably in Prison
Princip, a Minor, Avoided the ... is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list 7 Insane Facts About the Absurd Circumstances of Franz Ferdinand's Assassination
Photo: Unknown Photographer/Creative Commons

Princip’s luck got worse after his arrest. The only break he caught was avoiding the death penalty, because he was younger than 20, and therefore a minor. Instead of death, Princip was sentenced to 20 years in prison. But the prison system in 1914 wasn’t great; many prisoners died of malnutrition and/or diseases they caught while serving time.

Princip was malnourished at the time of his death, weighing only 88 pounds. His cause of death was skeletal tuberculosis. Before his death, Princip had an arm amputated on account of the disease. On April 28, 1918, three years and 10 months after the assassination of the archduke and his wife, Princip died. He was 23 years old.