Selected by Stephen Miller, Web Editor


The spark that began the first global war in 1914 was the assassination in Sarajevo of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire and his duchess Sophie Chotek on 28 June.  The retrospective French L’Album de la Guerre (Paris, 1926) makes this clear from its very beginning pages, my source for these three images: page 1 showing the two prominent victims of assassin Gavrilo Princip and page 5 their candle lit coffins.  Sandwiched between on page 3 is a photo showing a street scene of Princip being hauled into a police station.  (Whether the hatless man is the nineteen year old Princip himself has been questioned, as noted in the Wikipedia article on World War One [].)


The middle photo by Walter Tausch is from the streets of Sarajevo.  A century later the energy and seeming confusion are gripping.  If the man being taken into the station is a bystander, as some contend, that would emphasise the confusion.  Certainly the royal couple had been shot.  It is the static images of them that are portentous: the grand double portrait with the rather bizarrely cascading curtain behind and then the black solemnity of the coffins.  Millions of people around the world were going to follow these two into early graves. 

However, with this anniversary I am coming to realised that politically, the war did produce fundamental changes.  The institution which the grand couple represent, the Austro-Hungarian empire, did not outlive the conflict.  In fact, three further empires, the German, the Russian and the Ottoman were finished off by this war.  The whole concept of European empires was dealt a severe blow as were their associated monarchies.  Even in Britain the royal family felt constrained to change the name of their house.  It seems decisive that after 1914 the world – not always for the better, but in some ways for the better – would never be the same.  


More images from L’Album de la Guerre (Paris, 1926) volume I are available via the Serving Solder site at

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