On 28 June 1914, the Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie in their open car in Sarajevo. It set in motion a sequence of events that ultimately led to World War I. Austria held Serbia responsible and declared war. The conflict soon escalated, and it ended four years later with the Armistice of 11 November 1918. The date 11 November (11/11) is already remarkable. But there is something far more peculiar about this event. The car in which Franz Ferdinand died bore licence plate number AIII 118, possibly referring to Armistice 11-11-18.
The assassination succeeded after a series of mishaps. Two conspirators failed to act. A third threw a bomb that exploded below the next car. Franz Ferdinand then changed his plan to visit the wounded from the bombing at the hospital. After learning that the plot had failed, Princip positioned himself on the route to the hospital. There Franz Ferdinand’s open car reversed after having taken a wrong turn. The engine stalled, and the gears locked, just in front of the only person still prepared to kill Franz Ferdinand.
Hemmed in by the crowd, Princip was unable to activate the bomb he was carrying. He had to use his pistol instead but failed to aim it. According to his own words: ‘Where I aimed, I do not know.’ Princip added that he turned his head off when firing the shots. Even considering the point-blank range, it is odd that he fired only two bullets, killing both the Archduke and his wife.1
Franz Ferdinand had premonitions of early death. One relative mentioned him telling some of his friends a month earlier that he knew that he was about to be murdered. According to another account, the Archduke had shot a rare white stag a year earlier. According to folklore, a hunter who had killed such an animal would die within a year. Or one of his family members would. Franz Ferdinand was an indiscriminate huntsman, so it is plausible, but no reliable source mentions it.1
Indeed, remarkable coincidences surround the assassination. The car stopped just in front of Princip. Two poorly aimed shots proved to be fatal. But the licence plate adds a very peculiar suggestion to it. Did someone know beforehand that the Archduke was would be murdered in this particular car? And that this event was going to ignite a war that would end on 11 November 1918? The assassination could have gone wrong, or it might not have triggered a war, or the war could have proceeded differently to end on another day. To make it all happen in this way may require complete control over every thought and every action. And so, you may ask yourself, ‘Is there a plan for the future?’
Featured image: Gräf and Stift Double Phaeton ridden by the Archduke Franz Ferdinand at the time of his assassination. User OlliFoolish (2011). Wikimedia Commons.
1. Curses! Archduke Franz Ferdinand and His Astounding Death Car. Mike Dash (2013). Smithsonian. [link]