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

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  1,326 ratings  ·  233 reviews
Drawing on unpublished letters and rare primary sources, King and Woolmans tell the true story behind the tragic romance and brutal assassination that sparked World War I

In the summer of 1914, three great empires dominated Europe: Germany, Russia, and Austria-Hungary. Four years later all had vanished in the chaos of World War I. One event precipitated the conflict, and at
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published September 3rd 2013 by St. Martin's Press
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Jun 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Debris flew, windows shattered, and the crowd erupted in screams at the unexpected explosion, Sophie raised a hand to her neck where a splinter left its mark. Franz commanded the vehicle to stop, amidst the panic and mayhem in the streets, while spectators caught up with the assailant shouting, "I am a Serbian hero!" All was well again, they thought, and the motorcade proceeded to their destination. On the second lag of the motorcade's procession through the streets of Sarajevo, nineteen yea ...more
While I was listening to this book, well narrated by Malcolm Hillgartner, I enjoyed it very much. That ought to mean four stars..... but as I thought about the book later I realized I had some reservations.

It was extremely interesting to learn about the life of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, assassinated at Sarajevo, the spark that ignited WW1. Learning about the troubles that already existed in the Balkans and the relationships between The Austrian-Hungarian Empire and the Russians was enlightening
Doreen Petersen
Jan 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wwi
An extremely interesting and well written book about the cause of the start of WWI. Think and feel what you will about Franz Ferdinand, Sophie and the Habsburgs. Good or bad you are certainly entitled to your opinion. This book, however, is so well worth reading. I hope you will give it a try and enjoy it as much as I did.
"A crowd immediately surrounded Princip. Baron Morsey rushed forward, cavalry sabre drawn. Spectators were beating Princip; when Morsey saw that he still held the gun, he turned the hilt of his sword against him, hitting him until the pistol clattered to the pavement. Princip managed to pull the vial of cyanide from his pocket and swallow the contents before it, too, was knocked from his hand. Like that used [earlier that day] by Čabrinović, it failed to kill him, apparently having lost its p ...more
Apr 19, 2014 rated it it was ok
This was an entertaining enough evocation of the last days of imperial Austria, but the authors' take on the complex political and international situation was absurdly simplistic when not altogether incorrect and their obvious biases were not suffiently supported and admitted no shades of gray. It's not enough to claim that Franz Ferdinand was a great guy who was tragically misunderstood, even if his servants did love him (space for eye roll). Their cause would in fact have been better served if ...more
Nov 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Next year will see the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, in Sarajevo. It was an event which changed history - without their assassination this book asks, would there have been WWI, the Russian Revolution or, later, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union? History reverberates with the effects of this couple's deaths; but what is actually known of them? In this extremely readable history book, authors Greg King and Sue Woolmans looks at a love affa ...more
Connie G
Feb 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
"Much of Europe viewed the scattered Balkan provinces, states, and principalities as something of a perpetual menace. 'Some damn foolish thing in the Balkans,' German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck predicted, would sooner or later plunge all of Europe into a general war." On June 28, 1914, the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and his wife Sophie were assassinated by a Serbian terrorist in Sarajevo. This was the spark that set off a conflict between Austria and Serbi ...more
Aug 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Find this and other reviews at: http://flashlightcommentary.blogspot....

The final years of Hapsburg Monarchy were marked by tragedy. The execution of Maximilian I, the premature death of Archduchess Sophie, the suicide of Crown Prince Rudolf and the murder of Empress Elisabeth took a heavy toll on the family, but these events pale in comparison to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie Chotek, Duchess of Hohenberg in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914.

Sifting through decades o
Sep 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-wwi
After reading this, I want to travel back in time and smack people. What is done in this book is great. The loss of a couple, of a devoted couple, is highlighted, not as a spark that set off a war, but as a family loss. That gets over looked when talking about this killing.

You also feel so sorry for Sophie who it seems was a real lady in the true sense of that word.

Ann Sloan
Sep 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
What do we know about World War I, much less about how it started? I remembered from some long ago history class that somebody got shot in Sarajevo, all the European countries were bound by alliances and had to fight each other, and the Tsar and his family were shot. Maybe I got some of that last from Dr. Zhivago (what a movie!).

However, like most of history, the situation was much more complicated than that and – surprise – people, real people, were involved. In this case, two people were assas
Oct 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
A well-written, detailed and engaging look at the Archduke and his family.

The narrative is clear, insightful and readable.King provides an intimate look at Ferdinand’s marriage to Sophie and how heavily the imperial establishment ostracized them for it. The book also does a fine job humanizing the couple.

The book does not, however, fully explain how the assassination contributed to the tensions that drew the powers into a world war. Some more coverage of the era’s politics and Ferdinand’s role i
Katherine Gypson
Jul 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
I was so excited to see this book pop up on Amazon and NetGalley. I'm familiar with Greg King through his excellent writing and exemplary research on the Romanovs and I was happy to see him move into a new area of early 20th century history that is rarely explored. In almost every novel and history, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his beloved wife Sophie appear for a few fleeting moments - a couple in Sarajevo eternally getting in a car for a fatal ride. Assassination restores their humanity and br ...more
Paul Pessolano
Sep 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
“The Assassination of the Archduke” by Greg King and Sue Woolmans, published by St. Martin’s Press.

Category – History Publication Date – September 03, 2013

This book can be viewed on several levels. First, there is the history aspect of it and what is viewed as the start of World War I and every war thereafter. Second, it can be viewed as a study of the privileged aristocracy the decline of royalty. Third, it can be viewed as a tragic love story that overshadows the entire book.

I have to admit th
Ghost of the Library
Well this was a surprise and a revelation!

Very well researched, with great access to the archduke´s family, i for one very much enjoyed reading it...even if at times i could barely restrain myself from feeling mad at the horrendous amount of mistakes made that lead to that visit to Sarajevo and the killing of the archduke and his wife.

It was also very eye opening and refreshing to read more about a man whom i always found so intimidating in pictures, about his love of his family, his sense of du
Jessica Bohannon
Sep 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This wonderfully written work of nonfiction is a treasure! Not many people know the depth of Franz Ferdinand, his family and his love story. I had always heard of the characters presented in this book, but I never related them to eachother or to such a sweeping romance which makes it all the more heartbreaking.
Greg King and Sue Woolmans has done an amazing job doing research and interviewing close relatives for this amazing story. One of the reasons I got excited about this book is because it
Aug 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
closer to 4.5, maybe even a full 5. A heartbreaking look into the Archduke's family - from the very beginning they were fighting a losing battle but they did so out of love. This couple loved each other so much they gave up titles/inheritances, were completely ostracized from the Hapsburg family. After the assassination left the children orphaned, their beloved home was taken away, their belongings were deemed not their property, they were even exiled from their country and, in WWII, the two son ...more
Emma Hinkle
Aug 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Fantastic history on Franz Ferdinand and his family. Very engaging read.

This is the personal story behind the political story of the assassination that triggered World War I.

The authors begin with the different lives of the young Franz and Sophie. Sophie’s story is more interesting than the stultifying story of the tutors and discipline Franz suffered. One unique thing for Franz was the world tour he designed for himself. Sophie’s upbringing in various diplomatic posts should have been considered perfect training for an emperor’s wife, but the monarchy was not at a
Rebecca Huston
Greg King has become one of those writers that I buy automatically, and when his books land on my doorstep, I tend to move it to the top of the TBR pile. His works on European royalty are well-researched and well-written, with little details that humanize his subjects. This book was a real revelation to me -- his treatment of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his morganatic wife, Sophie Chotek, is spot on, and endlessly fascinating. Both of them have been vilified, treating them both as pe ...more
Oct 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an excellent book about both Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie.

As a morganatic wife, Sophie was treated abominably by the Habsburgs. She wasn't allowed to go to official functions, or when she was, she was forced to enter the dining room last and was seated far from her husband. She couldn't go to the theatre with him or ride in the same train carriage, etc etc etc. After she and the Archduke were assassinated, their children weren't even allowed to go to the funeral in Vien
Mar 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
A little bit of a slog, but that might have just been because I read other books first. Very thorough; reads more like a family history than a history book, which of course it is. It really offers a glimpse into the life of a doomed family, rendered even sadder by how it ends.
Lyd's Archive (7/'15 to 6/'18)
"These wounds won't seem to heal
This pain is just too real
There's just so much that Time cannot erase
When you cried I'd wipe away all your tears
When you screamed, I'd fight away all your fears
And I held your hand through all of these years
But you still have
All of me"
- Evanescence, "My Immortal"

If all royal history was written like this....
Bad books seem as far away as Siberia....

I read the last chapters of this book Monday night with my mouth open. This book is just that amazing.
Sep 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
2014 marks the 100 year anniversary of the fatal shots that not only ended the life of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, but precipitated the First World War. That their assassination caused the war is common knowledge. What this timely and highly readable publication from Greg King does is fill in the details of what happened on that momentous day and puts human faces to the political and historical figures who were involved. Most historical accounts focus primarily on the assassinatio ...more
June 28, 1914 will mark the 100th anniversary of that fateful day in Sarajevo. Well–known royalty historians King and Woolman bring us a detailed account of the life, times, and tragic deaths of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Czech Countess Sophia Chotek, that helped touch off WWI, which still shapes the world. The early chapters concentrate on Franz Ferdinand’s family, birth, childhood, education and military career. The reader obtains a look at the complexities of the stifling regim ...more
Seems like anytime I took a world or US history class in school, we'd get right up to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo kicking off WWI, and then the school year would end. So WWI has always been a gap in my historical knowledge (which picks up again in the 1920's and onward--thanks, Ken Burns! ;) ). I thought this book would be an intriguing entryway into the subject, since its focus is on the interpersonal and social.

The narrative delves into the lives and
Mary & Tom
Feb 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Every high school student knows that World War I started because of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, but few know anything about the man himself or his family. King's book offers a portrait of the early 1900's in Austria and biographical information about the Archduke and his family.

Although the Archduke has been described by many biographers as unpleasant and difficult, King's treatment of him is sympathetic. He describes how the Archduke married for love despite overwhelming oppo
Feb 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Most people know about the Archduke as the one who was assassinated that became the catalyst for the First World War. Other than that little else is known about him not because there’s no information out there but I believe a large part of it is because Archduke Franz Ferdinand was not popular with the elites in the Austrian ruling family and its court and also because the horror of World War One eclipsed everything. This book turned out to be quite interesting in its own right not just in relat ...more


Sorry, needed to get that off my chest. But really, I enjoyed this very much, as much as it is possible to enjoy reading about people who loved each other deeply being brutally assassinated in vain. This was fascinating to me, so much of their history I simply didn't know. (I don't think I ever really learned the negative historical portrayal of Franz Ferdinand either, fwiw.) And man, their poor children. Their poor, poor children.

Would recommend.
Dec 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The first victims of World War I.

I always knew that the Archduke's assassination was the catalyst that caused The Great War and the death, violence and destruction that followed. Shockingly I didn't know that his wife was also assassinated...??? Real life star-crossed lovers that's for sure. The cruelty they endured to be together is truly incalculable, even in death, downright disgusting! For shame on so many people, especially on Emperor Franz Josef and Prince Alfred de Montenuovo, the crueles
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Greg King (born 1964) is an American author, best known for his biographies of prominent historical figures.

He is the author of eleven internationally published works of royal and social history, specializing in late Imperial Russia and Edwardian-era royalty, including The Fate of the Romanovs, The Court of the Last Tsar, and the UK bestseller The Duchess of Windsor. A frequent onscreen expert and

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