If you have an interest in history, or have been forced to feign an interest in history, you probably know who Franz Ferdinand was. Heir to the Austrio-Hungarian throne and assassination victim, the act of which sparked World War One.

It’s because of the ramifications of his death that, in many ways, Franz Ferdinand has lost his humanity. It’s something I always find a little sad – he’s not remembered for who he was in life but for the consequences of his death. I will most likely not even be a footnote in History’s book, I’m sure, but at least while I am remembered, it will because of who I was and not because of what came after me.

With all that in mind, let’s take a closer look at Franz Ferdinand.

A Loving Husband and Father

Reportedly Franz’s last words to his wife, seated beside him and also shot and killed that day, were:

Sophie dear! Don’t die! Stay alive for our children!”

Of course, neither Franz nor his wife would survive.

Neither had they had the easiest of relationships. Coming from different classes, Franz and Sophie were, initially, unable to marry. When it became clear, however, that Franz would marry no one else the Emperor Franz Josef granted them permission to marry provided that Sophie and any children they had didn’t take on any of Franz’s titles and privileges, and that their children would not be in line for the throne.

They went on to have four children, one daughter and three sons, one of whom was stillborn. After their murder the children were taken in and raised by family members.

An Unlikable Political Figure

Franz Ferdinand was highly religious, a conservatist, anti-Semite, and considered old-fashioned, even by the standards of the early 1900s. In particular he disliked the Hungarian element of Austrio-Hungaria, and was suspicious of Serbia. He was opposed to suffrage for all men, and fearful of rising nationalism in the country. However, he was well aware that these internal weaknesses made Austria-Hungary vulnerable if there was a war.

It’s ironic that the man who’s death sparked The Great War, would have been the one to oppose war with Serbia, and by extension Russia, most strongly.

It is People, Not Dates, That Make History

Franz Ferdinand may not be someone we would necessarily admire. While his personal life appears to be one filled with love, his political views were problematic even then. But, he was a human being. And as students and teachers of History we need to remember that it is people, with all their complexities, that truly make history worthwhile.

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