Gavrilo Princip (July 25, 1894 (or 1895) – April 28, 1918) was a Bosnian Serb nationalist whose assassination of Franz Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife Countess Sophie in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, prompted the Austrian action against Serbia that led to World War 1.
Born in Obljaj, Bosansko Grahovo, Bosnia, Princip was a member of the Serb group “Young Bosnia” (Mlada Bosna), which advocated Bosnia’s unification with Serbia. The group was equipped with pistols and bombs supplied by the Black Hand, a secret society with links to some Serbian officers, and government officials although the government of Serbia had no knowledge of the plan. Austria set up a memorandum with unacceptable demands which were aiming at a refusal from Serbia. Much to Europe’s surprise, Serbia accepted the conditions however Austria found its casus belli in Serbia’s response which it judged insincere. Austria delcared war on Serbia on July 28, 1914.
Having been too young at the time of the assassination to face the death penalty, Princip received the maximum sentence of twenty years in prison, where he was held in harsh conditions worsened by the war, and he died of tuberculosis of the bone on April 28, 1918.
Gavrilo and his six co-conspirators were inexperienced with weapons, and it was only due to a freakish set of coincidences that they were successful. The first member of the group attempted a shooting from an upstairs window, but the range on his gun was insufficient. The second member threw a bomb (or a stick of dynamite, according to some reports) at the car, but missed. The explosion destroyed the following car, killing its driver and wounding the passengers. The assassin tried to escape, but was beaten to death by the crowd.
The next four never got a chance due to the heavy crowds, and it was beginning to look like the assassination would fail. However, Franz Ferdinand decided to visit the victims of the explosionin the hospital. Princip had gone to a nearby shop for a sandwich, apparantly giving up, when when he spotted Ferdinand’s car as it drove past. After dashing up to the car, Princip shot Sophie in the head, killing her instantly, and a second shot hit Ferdinand in the chest, but after that his gun locked and he was arrested. The wound sustained by Ferdinand normally would not have been fatal, but because he had his suit sewn shut (he was a very vain man, and couldn’t stand the sight of a crease) he bled to death in the time it took to cut the suit open.
The gun used by Princip was a Browning M 1910 semi-automatic pistol in 7.65x17mm (.32 ACP) caliber.