The Curse of Franz Ferdinand

The events leading up to the death of Archduke Franz Ferdinand were seemingly unlikely, but when one looks into the details of the single most disastrous (yet seemingly inevitable) event in world history, it is striking just how many specific and unlikely events had to transpire first.  The extremely specific assassination plot that was so horribly botched and yet somehow was accomplished anyway seems almost as though fate were being guided by an unseen hand.

When the Archduke and heir to the throne began his journey on the morning of June 28, 1914, he was already afflicted with a depression that seemed reminiscent of that suffered by president Abraham Lincoln as he approached Ford theater on the night of his own assassination, and would be followed by the depression of John F. Kenned as he too was about to be cut down by gunfire on his morning visit to Dealey Plaza in Texas.  A moment was fast approaching that would change history for all of those involved.  But it almost didn’t happen several times.

As the motorcade passed the first assassin, Mehmedbasic Danilo Ilic, Ilic changed his mind at the last moment and did not act.  The second assassin, Vaso Cubrilovic was armed with both a pistol and a bomb, but likewise failed to carry out his orders.  As 10:10 AM rolled around, the third assassin Nedeljkco Cabrinovic threw the bomb he had been given into the motorcade, but the bomb bounced off the Archduke of Austria’s car and back into the motorcade, wounding 20 people and leaving a massive crater.  Cabrinovic swallowed a suicide tablet made of cyanide and jumped into a river.  He did not know, however, that the river he had jumped into was only a few inches deep and the pill he had taken did not work either.  The crowd beat him severely and he was taken into custody where he was interrogated.  Somehow the next three assassins, Cvjetko Popovic and Gavrilo Princip, and Trifun Grabez did not succeed either as the motorcade passed them.

And then the story became even more unlikely.  As Gavrilo Princip gave up on the assassination, he went to a nearby delicatessen after the Archduke delivered his speech from a blood soaked piece of paper, still wet from the previous assassination attempt.  It was after this series of unlikely events, however, that the driver of the Archduke’s motorcade suddenly made a wrong turn as Leopold Loyka was unfamiliar with the city and took a wrong turn at random down the wrong street.  And it was still more unlikely as Loyka stopped the car to pause to ask for directions.  And it was even more unlikely that the Archduke had taken the only car left in the motorcade, much by random chance, that had an open top to it.  As Princip saw his target, he made a split decision and closed his eyes looking off to the side as he fired two shots.  Both shots hit their intended targets, despite the fact that Princip was looking away from them with his eyes closed.  Due to a chance wardrobe mix-up, Ferdinand’s personal guard did not have their parade uniforms and had not been deployed to assist with guarding the Archduke.