On this day in 1914 Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were assassinated by Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo. This is also known as the Casus Belli of World War One. Basically that means this was the catalyst that would lead to the First World War.
For people like me, this is a date I have been looking forward to all year. That is because this year marks the one hundred year anniversary of World War One. A big event.
During this extra special Fact of the Day, I’m going to go through what caused the assassination of Franz Ferdinand and the repercussions of this assassination, which ultimately led to war.
Here’s some background information. In 1908 Sarajevo was annexed by Austria-Hungary. As you could imagine this did not go down too well with Bosnia. Fast forward six years and Archduke Franz Ferdinand, who was heir to Austria-Hungary, was visiting Sarajevo to inspect the army there. For this visit he took his wife, Sophie.
There was still a lot of resentment surrounding Sarajevo being annexed and people were still vexed about this. Especially seven young Bosnian Serbs who had created a plan to assassinate the Archduke during his journey to the Appel Quay. The first conspirator who tried to kill Franz Ferdinand threw a bomb at his car. He missed and was arrested.
Fortunately, Franz Ferdinand was not hurt. Following this though he decided to cancel his visit and return home, this time using a different route. Unfortunately, nobody told the driver this – a bit of a rookie mistake, if you ask me.
So on the way back, therefore, the driver turned into Franz Josef Street, following the published route and, when told of his error, stopped the car to turn around. But by stopping the car where he did, he happened to pull up in front of Gavrilo Princip, one of the conspirators – he’d got a second chance at finishing the job he set out to do that morning.
Princip pulled out his gun and shot the Archduke. He then shot his wife Sophie. By 11.30 am, Franz Ferdinand had bled to death.
Now that all seems quite simple, right? But if that was in Austria-Hungary and involved a Serbian shooting an Austrian, why did all of Europe get involved? The answer is also pretty simple.
Basically over the last few years, certain countries had made alliances with other countries. These would be soon known to us as the Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente.
So Austria asked Germany for support in a war against Russia – This was on the assumption that Russia would support Serbia. If they didn’t, Germany wouldn’t support Austria.
Now on July 23rd, the Austrian government sent the Serbian government an ultimatum. Two days later, the Serbs respond saying they’re happy to accept all but one of the conditions. They would not accept that Austrian police should be allowed in Serbia.
July 28th rolls around and Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia.
The next thing we know, Russia has mobilised its army. Germany declares war on Russia.
Germany then declares war on France on August 3rd and plans to attack Belgium, in order to follow through with the Schlieffen Plan.
August 4th and Great Britain is now involved also. We entered a war due to a treaty we had made in 1839 promising to defend Belgium.
And there we have it folks. That is the short term lead up to World War One.