Assassination of Franz Ferdinand

Bosnia & Herzegovina #B13-15 commemorates the third anniversary of Ferdinand’s assassination.

On June 28, 1914, Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated by a Bosnia Serb nationalist, sparking World War I.

Europe was experiencing a rebirth of nationalism and imperialism in the early 1900s, along with mounting military power in many countries that was needed to protect their interests. Several powerful nations built alliances promising mutual aid against outside threats. Unrest among civilian populations, often teetering on the brink of revolution, added to the explosive mix.

Bosnia & Herzegovina #B12 pictures Ferdinand’s uncle, Emperor Franz Josef.

Nephew of Emperor Franz Josef and heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Franz Ferdinand traveled to Sarajevo in 1914. He was there to survey the armed forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which were former Ottoman territories that had been acquired by Austria-Hungary in 1908. That acquisition had long upset Serbian nationalists who wanted the area to join their recently formed independent Serbian nation. A group of six conspirators saw the visit as a chance to separate the southern Slav provinces from Austria-Hungary to be combined into Yugoslavia.

Bosnia & Herzegovina #117 pictures the last emperor of Austria, Karl I, who succeeded Franz Josef in 1916.

Ferdinand’s visit was scheduled for June 28, a significant date for many. It marked the anniversary of a major lost battle for medieval Serbia (the 1389 Battle of Kosovo) and was also Ferdinand’s wedding anniversary. Though his wife, a former lady-in-waiting, was denied royal status at home, in Sarajevo she could ride in the limousine as he conducted his tour. They rode the streets in an open car with very little security as crowds followed excitedly.

As they rode along, one of the conspirators threw a bomb at the car, but it rolled off the back and injured a police officer and some bystanders. The Archduke later went to visit the injured officer, but his car took a wrong turn, down a street where another of the conspirators, 19-year-old Gavrilo Princip, happened to be.

Item #M11509 – Canouan stamps depicting scenes from World War I.

Princip ran up to the car and shot Ferdinand and his wife at close range. As the couple lay dying in the car, Princip attempted to shoot himself but was attacked by a group of bystanders and eventually taken away by the police. Ferdinand and his wife died within an hour.

Shortly after, Austria-Hungary blamed Serbia for the assassination. A 10-point ultimatum was delivered to the Kingdom of Serbia, which accepted nine of the points and agreed to most of the tenth. Nevertheless, with Germany’s confirmed support, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia on July 28, 1914.

Item #M11593 – Grenada stamps showing World War I photos.

Because it had formed an alliance with Serbia, Russia joined the war against Austria-Hungary. Germany then declared war on Russia and France and invaded Belgium. Soon, the Allied Powers of Russia, France, and Great Britain were aligned against the Central Powers of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire. Because many of the empires had colonies throughout the world, the conflict would soon reach nearly around the globe.

Interestingly, the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I, was signed on the same date in 1919.

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  1. Thanks for the history. “This Day…” does a great job of reminding us how we have evolved into today. WW 1 has never been as well explained as other wars. My two grandfathers fought in WW 1. Like soldiers of most wars they never spoke of it. Someday maybe we will learn from those sad events.

  2. Again the article clear consist and elegant. I’ve read many things about WW1 but did not know that the Archduke wife didn’t always ride beside him and the Treaty was signed 5 years to the day later. Good work, keep it up.

  3. The assassination was the spark but the tinder was the European Alliance and
    the fuel was Russian and German mobilization. Austria-Hungary was certain
    it was the Serbian Government who did the deed, but it was actually a terror
    faction of Serbians who actually committed the Assassination. Austria-Hungary
    wanted to punish Serbia but Russia (fellow Slavs) protected Serbia so the Czar
    of Russia, seeing possible Austria-Hungarian invasion mobilized his Army.
    Germany, and ally of Austria-Hungary (the Central Powers) mobilized his Army
    to counter the Czars move. France and then England, allied with Russia (Triple
    Entente) mobilized with England sending troops across the channel to France.
    All this led to the First World War. What was so ironic was that the Kaiser, Wilhelm
    of Germany, Czar Nicholas of Russia and George V of England were all Cousins,
    being Grand children of Queen Victoria of England who was always busy marrying
    off her Daughters to European Royalty.

    1. Kenneth has written an excellent short paragraph on the tragic events that led to the intimately pointless First World War. Incidentally, Gavrilo Princip was convicted of murder and was sentenced to prison rather than execution because under Austrian law, the death penalty could only be imposed if the guilty person was at least 21. He apologized for killing Ferdinand’s wife but not for the Archduke. Princip died in prison of disease before the war ended.

    2. Excellent summary of how the alliances led to the war. Today, most people think Germany started the war and obviously the allies punished Germany more than any other belligerent. Another of the major powers not mentioned and engaged in the war was the Ottoman Empire, both in the Balkans and Mesopotamia. Other than the slaughter of approximately 1/4 European youth, the war and Treaties created many future problems in the Middle East and the Balkans, as well as the rise of the Soviet Union and communism, and fueled the rise of National Socialism in Germany in the wake economic collapse caused by reparations.

  4. Read “The Guns of August” by Barbara Tuchman, a classic to see how the whole thing evolved into WWI.

  5. I was fortunate to meet a U.S. WWI Marine who had made the charge agsinst German positions at Belleau Wood. When shown a company roster by a friend, he said that these fellows were mostly replacement. He observed that, ” The Germans had machineguns everywhere, even in the trees.Attacking in a parade ground fashion, we were decimated”. It was a new kind of war

  6. Thanks for the history and stamp info . I have a couple a Militar Post stamps in my collectionand I didn’t know what country to look under.

  7. I have an extreme amount of Rare stamps, omg!!!, I don’t know where to begin, all I know is I’m ready for a vacation! !!

  8. Thank you Mystic for history lesson that was not taught in my school years and probably in the present years.. I am making a copy of all the “This Day in History” who I am hoping my grand kids will read all the folders that I’ve created after I have passed on.

    1. You were absolutely taught history of WWI. There’s a huge difference between being taught and learning. To learn you have to listen and pay attention. From 2014-2018 you couldn’t pick up a magazine or turn on the TV without seeing something about WWI. The 100th anniversary was also dwelled on in different degrees by teachers and schools and all my kids, grandkids, nephews and nieces learned about it. The USPS even released a new commemorative stamp, covers, programs and other collectable items. I get sick and tired of people saying they weren’t taught when they really just didn’t want to learn until they got old and had nothing better to do and then criticized their schools and teachers for their own shortcomings. If you have something to teach, do it now because after you’re gone it’s too late.

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