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Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria

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Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria
Franz Ferdinand was a Royal Prince of Hungary and of Bohemia, as well as an Archduke of Austria-Este, Austro-Hungarian.
Born on December 18, 1863, the eldest son of Archduke Karl-Ludwig von Habsburg and his wife, Princess Annunziata di Borbone, Franz Ferdinand was third in line to the thrown of the Austro-Hungarian Empire upon his birth. After his cousin Crown Prince Rudolf committed suicide in 1889 and his father died in 1896, Franz Ferdinand became the heir of his aging uncle Emperor Franz Josef. He eloped with Countess Sophie Chotek on July 1, 1900, but this marriage was considered unequal and they were forced to renounce rights of rank and succession for their three children.
The Archduke had a distinguished military career, gaining promotions to captain, major, colonel and general. In 1913 he was named Inspector General of Austria-Hungary’s Army. An avid supporter of the Empire’s Navy, Franz Ferdinand has been described as energetic, reckless, proud, mistrusting and moody.
Dispite his military status, Ferdinand’s relationship with Emperor Franz Josef was laden with friction. Often disagreeing with the Empire’s leaders, he was not very popular. Politically, Franz Ferdinand aligned himself with centralism and Catholic conservatism. Striving to give more freedom to ethnic groups in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, he supported the Czechs as well as the Croatians and Bosnians. The Archduke also promoted federalism that would make the empire into 16 states and saw Hungarian nationalism as a serious threat. He also believed that if Serbia was treated harshly, Russia would react violently.
The Archduke’s life ended at the hands of a Serbian terrorist group called The Black Hand on the 28 June 1914. This group sent three of its members to murder Franz Ferdinand and his wife as they visited Sarajevo. Their first assassination attempt, throwing a bomb at the Archduke's car, failed, though a number of bystanders were wounded. The assassins almost gave up their plans, and one of them, Gavrilo Princip, wandered off down the street. Meanwhile, the Archduke and Archduchess decided to visit the wounded in the hospital, but their driver took a wrong turn and they ended up on the same street as Princip. Seizing his chance, Princip stepped forward and fired several times into the car, fatally wounding both Franz Ferdinand and Sophie. They were raced to the governor's mansion where they were pronounced dead. This assassination was said to be a result of the movement that later became known as Young Bosnia.
Many historians believe that Ferdinand’s assassination led to WWI because Austria-Hungary issued an ultimatum to the Serbian government demanding them to respect their claim to Bosnia and Herzegovina and suppress all anti-Austrian groups and publications. Serbia would also have to accept an Austro-Hungarian investigation into the assassination. Austria-Hungary’s ally Germany had pledged their support, Russia therefore stood firm and maintained their support for Serbia. This is when the alliance system in Europe had caused a small local conflict to explode into a Europe-wide affair. On the 28th of July 1914, Austria-Hungary invaded Serbia, officially starting the First World War which would last for four gruelling years and change the face of Europe forever.

Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archduke_Franz_Ferdinand_of_Austria
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assassination_of_Archduke_Franz_Ferdinand_of_Austria

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