Sophie, Duchess von Hohenberg. (1868-1914) Born in Stuttgart on March 1st. Wife of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir-apparent to the Austro-Hungarian empire. Shot and killed along with her husband in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914.

Countess (Gräfin) Sophie Chotek von Chotkova und Wognin was born into a Czech family of the lesser nobility. She worked as a lady-in-waiting for Archduchess Isabella in Pressburg. When Isabella discovered that Archduke Franz Ferdinand was visiting to see, not one of Isabella's eligible daughters, but rather her lady-in-waiting, she fired Sophie on the spot.

Franz Ferdinand had fallen deeply in love with Sophie and in 1899, decided that he wished to marry her. Hapsburg family law stipulated that Franz Ferdinand, as a Hapsburg, marry someone decended from the House of Hapsburg, or from one of the ruling dynasties of Europe, or specific other princely houses. The Choteks fit none of those catagories.
Franz Ferdinand loved Sophie too much to give her up. He persisted in his entreaties to the Emperor to approve their union. Only after Franz Ferdinand swore a morganatic oath, did Emperor Franz Joseph consent to their marriage on July 1, 1900. (This oath excluded Sophie from assuming her husband-to-be's royal title and excluded their future descendents from the line of succession.) After the wedding, Emperor Franz Joseph did grant Sophie the title of Princess of Hohenberg -- a title in Austrian nobility, though a very minor one.

Sophie's daughter Sophie was born in 1901. Maximillian was born in 1902, Ernst in 1904. Franz, Sophie and their children enjoyed a happy home life.

Public life was not as comfortable. Court protocol and strict etiquette rules meant that Sophie could not ride in the royal coach with her husband. At entrances to formal events, Sophie would have to wait until all of the higher ranking women had made their entrance before she could enter and rejoin her husband. In 1905, the Emperor elevated Sophie to the title of Duchess. She could then be addressed as "Serene Highness." In 1909, her title was raised such that she was addressed as Duchess, Highness ad Personum.While still not on a par with her archducal husband, the title did grant her the privilege of being addressed as "Highness," which was less socially awkward.

In June of 1914, Sophie traveled with her husband to Sarajevo. While driving to City Hall, a would-be assassin threw a bomb at her husband which missed, exploding nearby. After the assassination attempt, Franz Ferdinand wanted to send Sophie out of town for her safety. She insisted on staying beside him for the remainder of the tour. While driving from City Hall to the hospital, to visit those injured in the bombing, another assassin (Gavrilo Princip) shot Franz Ferdinand in the neck and Sophie in the abdomen. She died less than an hour later from internal bleeding.

Even after death, Sophie's social troubles followed her. Stiff protocol would not permit her coffin to lie in state in the same chapel as a Hapsburg. Only the personal intervention of Emperor Franz Joseph allowed her coffin to lie beside her husband's. Protocol would not be completely denied, however. Her coffin was set lower and with far less decoration, lest anyone forget her lesser station. She was not permitted to be buried in plots reserved for Hapsburg royalty, so both she and her husband were buried in crypts beneath the chapel of Franz Ferdinand's castle -- Artstetten.


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Related Articles in World War I Document Archive

Sarajevo, June 28, 1914
Biography of Franz Ferdinand
Biography of General Potoirek, Governor of Sarajevo.
Biography of Princip, the gunman.
Biography of Cabrinovic, the bomber.