Sophie of Hohenberg – The insanity of life (Part one)




sophie hohenberg
(public domain)

Sophie of Hohenberg was born on 24 July 1901 at Konopiště as the daughter of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his morganatic wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg. Her parents’ relationship had had quite a rocky start as her mother, a born Countess Chotek von Chotkow und Wognin, was considered too low-born for the heir presumptive to the Austrian throne. Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria had lost his only son in a murder-suicide pact with his mistress in 1889, and upon the death of Franz Ferdinand’s father in 1896, he became first in the line of succession. It took him three years to win the right to marry the love of his life, but only on the condition that the marriage was morganatic – meaning that Sophie would never be his equal and their children would never be allowed to succeed to the throne. They were given the last name Hohenberg. The entire Imperial family boycotted the wedding except for his stepmother Archduchess Maria Theresa (born of Portugal) and his two younger half-sisters.

Young Sophie was their first-born child, and she was joined by two younger brothers Maximilian and Ernest in 1902 and 1904, respectively. According to her, her family home of Konopiště (now in the Czech Republic) “was home, the place of our first memories, the cocoon where all our day to day business took place.”1 The children were close to their parents and were called, “The Little Highnesses” in the household. If Franz Ferdinand and Sophie were away from the children, they made sure to call them every day. Young Sophie later said, “We were always taken with him on every possible occasion whether travelling or when we were old enough out shooting at home.”2 Young Sophie had the nickname “Pinky.”

The mornings were spent at lessons for young Sophie and her brothers. Franz Ferdinand believed that Sophie would be “a thousand times happier at the side of a socially suitable partner whom she loved than was ever possible with those marriages of convenience, which so often went wrong, entered into by princesses of the imperial house.”3 He hoped that they would grow up to be private individuals. Sophie later said, “We were brought up to know that we weren’t anything special.”4 Sophie had her own French governess while her brothers had a tutor. Sophie had inherited the artistic talents from her mother and grew up to be an accomplished painter and pianist. Her brothers were later sent to private school. For Franz Ferdinand, the children were, “my whole delight and pride. I sit with them all day and admire them because I love them so much. And the evenings at home, when I smoke my cigar and read the newspapers; Soph knits, and the children roll around and throw everything from the tables, and it is all so incredibly delightful and cozy!”5 This idyllic family life came to a crashing halt in 1914.

On 23 June 1914, her parents departed for Sarajevo – having spent the last few days with the children. It would be the last time they would see their parents alive. On 28 June 1914 at 10:10 am a hand grenade was thrown at the car Franz Ferdinand and Sophie were travelling in. The grenade missed the passengers and rolled into the street where it exploded. Franz Ferdinand ordered the car to stop as Sophie clutched her neck, she had been struck by a splinter. The car then sped off towards City Hall, where they nevertheless attended a reception. The moment to return to the car came, and Franz Ferdinand refused to wait for the garrison to line the street to protect them, he feared it would not be diplomatic. Sophie refused to ride along in a different car, saying, “No, Franzi, I am going with you.”

At 10:45 am the couple descended the front steps of the city hall, and they set off towards the Appel Quay. The car then went the wrong way, forcing it to stop and reverse. As it was stopped, they came face to face with Gavrilo Princip, who saw Sophie in the car and debated whether he should shoot or not. He later gave contradictory accounts of what happened next. He first claimed to aim at the Archduke, and then he claimed not knowing where he had aimed. He thought he had fired twice, but others heard three shots. One bullet is believed to have gone straight through Franz Ferdinand’s helmet, the other hit Sophie. They were both conscious, and Sophie screamed, “For heaven’s sake, what has happened to you?” She then slumped across her husband’s lap. Franz Ferdinand supposedly managed to utter the words, “Sopherl, Sopherl! Don’t die! Stay alive for our children!” He then slumped forward. Franz Ferdinand was barely conscious as the car raced away from the scene, reportedly repeating, “It is nothing, it is nothing.” Franz Ferdinand died on a chaise longue in a government office and Sophie, who had died in the car during the journey, was laid on an iron bed in an adjoining room.

Sophie and her brothers had just sat for luncheon when the boys’ tutor was suddenly called away from the table. He was informed but decided to wait for Henriette who, as their aunt, was the better person to inform the children, and was on her way. Sophie later recalled, “We ran towards her cheerfully, but she had tears in her eyes.”6 Henriette told them their parents had been wounded and that they should go to church and pray for them. The children did not learn the full truth until the following day. Count Karl von Wuthenau, an uncle, was the one who told young Sophie was had really happened. Sophie recalled, “The anguish was indescribable, and also the feeling of total bewilderment. All our lives, we had known nothing but love and total security. Now suddenly we simply couldn’t imagine what was to become of us.”7

Read part two here.

  1. The assassination of the archduke: Sarajevo 1914 and the romance that changed the world by Greg King and Sue Woolmans p.146
  2. The assassination of the archduke: Sarajevo 1914 and the romance that changed the world by Greg King and Sue Woolmans p.148
  3. The assassination of the archduke: Sarajevo 1914 and the romance that changed the world by Greg King and Sue Woolmans p.151
  4. The assassination of the archduke: Sarajevo 1914 and the romance that changed the world by Greg King and Sue Woolmans p.151
  5. The assassination of the archduke: Sarajevo 1914 and the romance that changed the world by Greg King and Sue Woolmans p.160
  6. The assassination of the archduke: Sarajevo 1914 and the romance that changed the world by Greg King and Sue Woolmans p.261
  7. The assassination of the archduke: Sarajevo 1914 and the romance that changed the world by Greg King and Sue Woolmans p.261






About Moniek 1799 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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