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Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria
"Franz Ferdinand" links to here. For its other meanings see: Franz Ferdinand (disambiguation)
His Imperial and Royal Highness Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Este (sometimes called Francis Ferdinand in English) (December 18, 1863 – June 28, 1914) was born in Graz, Austria and was a Habsburg Archduke of Austria and heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne. His assassination by Gavrilo Princip on June 28, 1914 in Sarajevo, Austrian-annexed Bosnia-Herzegovina, precipitated the Austrian declaration of war against Serbia which triggered World War I.
In 1875, Francis V, Duke of Modena died. This was an extinction of his grandfather's branch of the family, the Austria-Estes , in the male-line. Whenever the Austria-Este line dies out, the person in line to the Austro-Hungarian throne after the current heir and all his immediate heirs becomes the Archduke of Austria-Este (the "-Este" in honor of the status as Dukes of Modena, formerly ruled by the Este family), a process of inheritance called "secundogeniture." Normally, Franz Ferdinand would have become the Duke of Modena at this time, but the duchy had been unified with the rest of Italy in 1860.
Franz Ferdinand was nephew of the Emperor Franz Josef I of Austria and next in line to the crown following the suicide of his cousin Crown Prince Rudolph at Mayerling (January 30, 1889) and the death of his father Karl Ludwig (May 19, 1896). His marriage (July 1, 1900) to (the relatively low-ranking) Countess Sophie Chotek was permitted only after the couple had agreed that the bride would not enjoy royal status and their children would have no claims to the throne. Franz Josef did not attend the wedding.
Upon the marriage, the Countess was made Her Serene Highness Fürstin Sophie von Hohenberg, but in 1909 her title was raised to Her Highness Duchess Sophie von Hohenberg, though her children remained HSH Prince(sse)s of Hohenberg.
Franz Ferdinand's children were:
- HSH Princess Sophie von Hohenberg (1901-1990), married Count Friedrich von Nostitz-Rieneck (1891-1973); had issue
- HSH Duke Maximilian von Hohenberg (1902-1962), cr. 1st Duke of Hohenberg 1917, married HIllH Countess Elisabeth von Waldburg (1904-1993); had issue
- HSH Prince Ernst von Hohenberg (1904-1954), married Marie-Therese Wood (1910-1985); had issue
- Stillborn son (1908)
Franz Ferdinand alienated many sections of Austro-Hungarian political opinion: Hungarian nationalists opposed his advocacy of universal male suffrage which would undermine Magyar domination in the Hungarian kingdom; both supporters and opponents of the Empire's existing dualist structure were suspicious of his idea for a third Croat-dominated Slav kingdom including Bosnia and Herzegovina as a bulwark against what was perceived in Vienna's Ballhausplatz (Foreign Ministry) as Serbian irredentism; and non-Catholics and anticlericalists were angered by his patronage (April 22, 1900) of the Catholic Schools Association.
Although Franz Ferdinand was seen outside Germany as a leader of the "war party" within Austria-Hungary, this was in fact entirely untrue. In fact, the Archduke was one of the leading advocates of maintaining the peace within the Austro-Hungarian government during both the Bosnian Crisis of 1908-1909 and the Balkan Wars Crises of 1912-1913.
No evidence has been found to support suggestions that his low-security visit to Sarajevo was arranged by elements within Austro-Hungarian official circles with the intention of exposing him to the risk of assassination so as to remove a potentially troublesome royal personage from the scene.
The bullet fired by Gavrilo Princip in the Archduke's assassination, sometimes referred to as "the bullet that started World War I", is stored as a museum exhibit in the Konopiště Castle near the town of Benešov, Czech Republic.
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