The Assassination of the Archduke: Sarajevo 1914 and the Romance That Changed the World

Written by Greg King Sue Woolmans
Review by Susan Higginbotham

In June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, accompanied by his wife, Sophie, reluctantly paid a visit to Bosnia, having tried his best to avoid the obligation imposed upon him by his uncle, Franz Josef, Emperor of Austria. His misgivings were proved well-founded on June 28, when Gavrilo Princip, a revolutionary, shot the couple dead as they rode through the streets of Sarajevo.

To many readers, Franz Ferdinand is known only as the man whose assassination triggered the First World War. Royal historians King and Woolmans show us the man behind the history, especially in his startling marriage to Countess Sophie Chotek, whose impressive pedigree was nonetheless not impressive enough to qualify her as a bride for the archduke. Even though romance carried the day, the couple’s children would be barred from the succession, and Sophie made to endure official snubs.

King and Woolmans do a good job of explaining the complex political situation behind the tragic denouement to the couple’s love story. Relying heavily on archival and family sources, they look at the evidence with clear, compassionate eyes and clear away some myths, resulting in a moving and compelling read.