Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria became heir to the Austrian throne after his cousin committed suicide in 1889. In 1895 he met Sophie Chotek, a lady in waiting (and, incidentally, a descendant of one of those defenestrated in Prague). They kept their relationship a secret for two years, as Sophie was not eligible to marry into the royal family. However, in 1900 they were allowed to marry, but none of their descendants could succeed to the throne. Sophie could not appear with him in public, taking other means of transportation and sitting in a different area during events.
There was a loophole: When Franz was acting in military duty, his wife could share his rank and they could appear together in public. In June 1914, they were in Sarajevo en route to a town hall reception when their motorcade was bombed in an assassination attempt. Franz and Sophie were uninjured, but 20 others were not so lucky. After the reception, they decided to visit the wounded in the hospital, but their motorcade took a wrong turn. In the confusion, one of the assassins, who happened to be grabbing a sandwich nearby after the earlier failed assassination attempt, saw the motorcade and approached the car, shooting and killing both Franz and Sophie.
And thus began World War I. Austria-Hungary (of the Central Powers) declared war on Serbia (of the Triple Entente Powers), the allied countries on each side declared war on each other, and the rest of that story is better known than the catalyst.
An interesting note: the man who threw the first bomb took a cyanide pill and jumped into the nearby river. However, the cyanide was old, so all it did was make him throw up, and the river he jumped into was only four inches deep. Bad planning on his part – he was severely beaten by the crowd before being taken into custody.
I was a history major in college. Fat lot of good it did me. No, I don’t ask “Do you want fries with that?” on a regular basis. I did a little better than that. But I’m not using my degree, and I find I’m losing most of my history knowledge. Scratch that – I find I’ve LOST much of my history knowledge.
A couple of years ago, my first go round on Match, Soccer Guy won my heart early on by emailing me something along the lines of, “A history major, huh? So if I wanted to know about the Defenestration of Prague, you’d be my girl.” And I was clueless as to what the hell he was talking about. He had to remind me, and then I remembered a lecture about it – but you would really think with a word like defenestration, I would have remembered that. Trust me, I’m not likely to forget it again.
Defenestration is the act of throwing someone or something out of a window. According to Wikipedia, it was used historically to refer to an act of political dissent.
The most famous defenestration, the Defenestration of Prague, occurred in 1618. Actually, there were two Defenestrations of Prague, the first of which was in 1419, but the more famous was in 1618. This event was central in the start of the Thirty Years’ War, which started as a religious conflict between Protestants and Catholics in the Holy Roman Empire. Some Catholic officials tried to halt construction of Protestant chapels, stating that Catholic Clergy owned the land. The Protestants argued that the land was royal and available for use, and interpreted the attempt to halt construction as a violation of their freedom of religious expression. On May 23, 1618, in Prague Castle, two Imperial Governors were tried and found guilty of violating the Protestants’ rights, and they were thrown out the window – the high window (how high, I don’t know). The two lived, and according to them it was divine intervention and thus proved the righteousness of their cause. The Protestants argued that they survived due to the large pile of manure outside the window.
Which just goes to show, piling on the shit may just save your butt.