Why was the archduke assassinated, and who was behind it are thought provoking questions with a variety of answers, which range from simple to complex.
Who done it? History tells us a contingency of Slav students, planned and carried out the assassination. The leader was Gavrilo Princip, a 19 year old Serb from Bosnia who attended school in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia. Princip was a slightly build man, rather frail, which caused him to be rejected when he volunteered for the Serbian military during the Balkin wars of 1912-1913. His rejection instilled a strong desire to prove himself, which surfaced when he heard that the heir to the Hapsburg Empire was scheduled to visit Bosnia in June of 1914.
He had an idea which developed into a scheme to assassinate the visiting dignitary. The motive for murder was common throughout history, young reactionaries wanting to change the existing political order by scaring or overthrowing the current regime.
However, the young Serb needed help to carry out his plan so he solicited his friends to join his plot. One of his new recruits had connections who helped the conspirators obtain weapons, which included automatic pistols, bombs and just in case, cyanide capsules.
According to history the students made it across the border into Bosnia. They made it to Sarajevo in time to position themselves at two vital locations along the road the archduke’s motorcade would travel. When the dignitaries passed the first point, one of the assassins throw a bomb at the archduke’s vehicle. The bomb missed its intended target but caused damage to the car behind.
Confusion and fear caused the driver of Ferdinand’s car to leave the scene and drive to the town hall where he gave a speech, followed by a reception. Ferdinand decided to cancel existing plans so he could visit Colonel Merizzi, who was injured in the first attack and was in the hospital. If the driver of the lead car would have known this he would have taken a different route. But the driver thought the duke was sticking to his original plans of visiting the museum,, which took them along the original route.
The Archduke’s driver followed the first car as it traveled through narrow streets. When General Potiorek realized the error, he ordered the driver to turn around. The driver stopped and pondered on how he could turn around in the narrow street.
After the first attempt had failed, Princip thought his plan had failed. He remained in his position at the second location when the Archduke’s car stopped within feet of him. He was going to throw his bomb but the crowd was so tight he could not raise his arm. He pushed his way through and when he was alongside the duke’s car he opened fire. One bullet struck the duke in his jugular while another embedded in Sophie’s abdomen. Both shots were fatal and Princip was captured by the crowd.