"3 HOURS BEFORE DEATH" - a photo of a smiling man and woman and how their deaths were going to change the world forever.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand (seated, in hat) and his wife, Sophie, on the day they were assassinated,
Sarajevo, June 28, 1914. | Source

❝ We see a pleasant couple on a sunny morning. They are a little plump, perhaps, and well into middle age. Clearly they are people of wealth and consequence. They are sitting in an expensive open car, a rarity at the time. She is elegant in a white dress and hat. Although the photograph is black and white, we know from other sources that the flowers she carries are roses, blood-red ones. He is wearing a military uniform. As she looks on approvingly, he shakes the hand of a local dignitary.

The man leaning down from the car is Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, that vast and ancient empire at the heart of Europe. By his side is his wife, Sophie. As it happens, they are about to celebrate their wedding anniversary. By all accounts the marriage has been a very happy one. Nevertheless, the old emperor and his court disapprove of her because she comes from the wrong social class and they humiliate her at every opportunity. But today Franz Ferdinand and Sophie are in Sarajevo, far from Vienna and its rigid etiquette, and she is being received with full honors as his equal.

The photograph was taken a hundred years ago, on June 28 1914, and they have less than three hours to live. Young assassins, backed and armed by shadowy forces in Serbia, are waiting among the onlookers. Even then, the couple so nearly escape their fate. One bomb misses and others among the plotters lose their nerve. Then, while trying to flee, the driver of the car takes a wrong turn. As he fumbles with the gears to back up, the last of the assassins steps up and shoots the passengers, point blank.

Five weeks later, Europe’s great powers were at war. Austria-Hungary, with Germany’s backing, took the opportunity of the assassinations to move against Serbia; that in turn brought in Russia to defend the little Balkan nation; Germany went to war with Russia and its ally France; and Britain came to their defense. The fighting lasted for four years and drew in other powers, from Japan to the United States. It left more than 9 million soldiers dead, destroyed empires, and fueled ideologies such as fascism and communism. We cannot look at the photograph made on that sunny day in Sarajevo without the awful knowledge that the deaths of that smiling man and woman were going to change the world forever. ❞

- Historian and bestselling author Margaret MacMillan from her book By Margaret MacMillan The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914 [Hardcover]

Photograph of the Archduke and his wife emerging from the Sarajevo Town Hall to board their car, a few minutes before the assassination | Source

The Cursed Car Of Archduke Franz Ferdinand?

The six-passenger open touring car had been custom-built for royalty. And originally it had been a vivid blood red.On June 28, 1914, Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife Archduchess, Sophie were gunned down by an assassin.A young fanatic armed with a pistol had leaped onto the running board of the car. Laughing in the faces of the Archduke and Duchess, he fired shot after shot into their bodies. That double assassination was the spark that touched off the first World War, with its casualty list of 20 million – a war the red car had helped to start.

  1. General Potiorek was the next to possess this cursed car. After a huge military defeat and a trip to Vienna for more disgrace, he began having mental problems and died in an insane asylum.
  2. After the Armistice, the newly appointed Governor of Yugoslavia had the car restored to first-class condition. But after four accidents and the loss of his right arm, he felt the vehicle should be destroyed.
  3. His friend Dr Srikis disagreed. Scoffing at the notion that a car could be cursed, he drove it happily for six months – till the overturned vehicle was found on the highway with the doctor's crushed body beneath it.
  4. Another doctor became the next owner, but when his superstitious patients began to desert him, he hastily sold it to a Swiss race driver.
  5. In a road race in the Dolomites, the car threw him over a stone wall and he died of a broken neck.
  6. A well-to-do farmer acquired the car, which stalled one day on the road to market. While another farmer was towing it for repairs, the vehicle suddenly growled into full power and knocked the tow-car aside in a careening rush down the highway. Both farmers were killed.
  7. Tiber Hirschfield, the last private owner, decided that all the old car needed was a less sinister paint job. He had it repainted in a cheerful blue shade and invited five friends to accompany him to a wedding. Hirschfield and four of his guests died in a gruesome head-on collision.
  8. By this time the government had had enough. They shipped the rebuilt car to the museum. But one afternoon Allied bombers reduced the museum to smoking rubble. Nothing was found of Karl Brunner and the haunted vehicle. Nothing, that is, but a pair of dismembered hands clutching a fragment of steering wheel.

    This tiny piece of history went completely unremarked for the best part of a century, until a British visitor named Brian Presland called at the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum. It was Presland who seems to have first drawn the staff's attention to the remarkable detail contained in the Gräf und Stift's license plate, which reads – AIII 118. That number, Presland pointed out, is capable of a quite astonishing interpretation. It can be taken to read A (for Armistice) 11-11-18 – which means that the death car has always carried with it a prediction, not of the dreadful day of Sarajevo that in a real sense marked the beginning of the First World War, but of 11 November 1918: Armistice Day, the day that the war ended.

        • Most countries changed the name of the holiday just prior to or after World War II, to honour veterans of that and subsequent conflicts. Most member states of the Commonwealth of Nations, like United Kingdom and (as Canada in 1931), adopted the name Remembrance Day, while the United States chose All Veterans Day (later shortened to 'Veterans Day') to explicitly honor military veterans, including those participating in other conflicts. "Armistice Day" remains the name of the holiday in France and Belgium, and it has been a statutory holiday in Serbia since 2012. In New Zealand and Australia observance ceremonies take place, but the day is not a public holiday.
        • In many parts of the world, people observe a one or more commonly a two-minute moment of silence at 11:00 a.m. local time as a sign of respect in the first minute for the roughly 20 million people who died in the war, and in the second minute dedicated to the living left behind, generally understood to be wives, children and families left behind but deeply affected by the conflict. The two minute silence was proposed to Lord Milner by South African Sir Percy Fitzpatrick in 1919. This had been the practice in Cape Town from May 1918, although it had quickly spread through the Empire after a Reuters correspondent cabled a description of this daily ritual.

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