Franz Ferdinand had been making frequent visits to the palace of Archduke Friedrich and Isabella. Isabella and everyone else assumed that he must have been dating her eldest daughter, Marie Christine.
One day however, Isabella discovered a locket that Ferdinand had left behind. She picked it up and opened it, expecting to see a picture of her daughter. Instead, she found an image of her lowborn not-royal personal assistant, Sophie Chotek.
She was outraged, and the whole Habsburg family disapproved of this relationship. Sophie was not of royal lineage, only minor nobility, and from a poor family. She was not an acceptable match for the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary.
Ferdinand really wanted to marry Sophie, but his uncle, Emperor Franz Joseph, would not allow it. This stalemate went on for a while until Franz Joseph gave up and decided he would allow the marriage with a special condition.
It would have to be a morganatic marriage, which meant that Sophie would not be considered royalty, and none of her children would be considered legitimate heirs to the throne.
Ferdinand agreed to those terms, and finally in 1900 the two were married. Almost all of the Habsburgs avoided the wedding in protest. The only family members to attend were Ferdinand’s step-mother and step-sister.
When it came to royal proceedings, Sophie was sidelined and treated like just another commoner. She couldn’t be next to Ferdinand in carriage rides, or official dinners. Whenever he led a procession, she would have to stay far behind in the back with all of the other non-royalty.
In the midst of all this, they had three kids which they adored, and they seemed to be having a happy marriage.
In the summer of 1914, the couple went on a trip to Bosnia. This was significant because since it wasn’t an official state visit, and Bosnia was a little bit more lax in general since it was a recently annexed region, Ferdinand and Sophie could appear in public together.
They could ride in the same carriage, and act like a royal couple. To top it all off, their fourteenth anniversary was coming up in a few days.
Ferdinand sent a telegram to his son to congratulate him on his recent exam results. It was their last day in Bosnia and they were looking forward to getting back to their kids.
On the morning of June 28th, 1914, they were driving together in an open top car towards the town hall. It was a fine morning, but then everything changed when the bombs started flying.
The driver saw the bomb heading towards them, so he sped up, and Ferdinand deflected it with his hands. It damaged the car behind them, but they drove off safely.
Ferdinand was a good guy, so he decided to go to the hospital to visit the people who had been hurt by the bomb and check in on them. He wanted Sophie to stay behind for safety, but she insisted on joining him. Her place was by his side. The military governor of Bosnia was also going to be with them, and said there should be no more trouble. #seemslegit.
They were on their way to the hospital, but the driver took a wrong turn, and they ended up driving past another of the assassins, who did nothing.
Eventually, they realized they were going the wrong way, and stopped to turn around. And by the dumbest of dumb luck, they stopped right next to another assassin, Gavrilo Princip, who promptly seized the moment and shot them.
“Sophie dear, Sophie dear, don't die! Stay alive for our children.” were Franz Ferdinand's final words to his wife. “It’s nothing. It’s nothing.” he said to the others in the car, as he too faded away.
What was Emperor Franz Joseph’s response to all this? Did he get mad and start World War One?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, he was relieved to not have to deal with his annoying nephew anymore. “A higher power has re-established the order which I, alas, could not preserve.” he said. “For me, it is a relief from a great worry.”