Franz Ferdinand was born on December 18, 1863 in Graz, Austria. He was the 1st son of Archduke Karl Ludwig of Austria, who was the younger brother of Franz Josef, Emperor of Austria. In 1875, Franz's cousin, Duke Francis V of Modena, died and named Franz his heir. Franz Ferdinand accepted the offer and inherited his entire fortune, becoming one of the wealthiest Austrians overnight.
In 1876, Franz began being tutored by Onno Klopp, a famous German historian. He would continue to be tutored by Klopp until 1885. In 1877, Franz joined the Austrian Army and was given the rank of third lieutenant. In 1889, the Crown Prince of Austria, Rudolf, committed suicide. The move caused Ferdinand's father to be appointed heir apparent and Ferdinand as heir to the heir apparent.
In his free time, Franz Ferdinand enjoyed hunting. Over his lifetime, he claimed to have shot approximately 5,000 deer. He also had a great passion for travel and journeyed to Italy in 1883 to see the property that Francis V had left to him. In 1885, he spent more time traveling, visiting Egypt, Syria, and Turkey. In 1889, he spent a lot of time touring Germany.
In 1895, Franz Ferdinand met Countess Sophie Chotek while dancing at a ball in Prague. Ferdinand developed affections for her, despite the fact that she wasn't directly descended from a royal line. They wrote each other frequently, particularly while Franz was recovering from tuberculosis on the isle of Losinj. During this entire time, they kept their relationship a secret for fear of public scrutiny.
In 1898, the relationship was unveiled when he forgot his watch at the home of Archduchess Isabella. She opened it and noticed that it contained a photograph of Sophie. Realizing the implications, she immediately dismissed Sophie Chotek from her home.
In spite of the scandal caused by the relationship, Franz refused to marry royalty. He appealed to a number of his important friends, including Pope Leo XIII, Tsar Nicholas II, and Emperor Wilhelm II, who supported Franz before Emperor Franz Joseph. Eventually, in 1899, Franz Joseph stated that he would allow the marriage between Franz Ferdinand and Sophie Chotek as long as their descendants would not have rights to the throne of Austria. Sophia would also not receive royal status and remain out of the public eye.
Franz and Sophie agreed to the strict terms imposed by Franz Joseph and were married on July 1, 1900 in the city of Reichstadt. The marriage attendance was sparse, largely due to the scandalous nature of the affair, but Sophie was appointed Princess of Hohenberg after the marriage. In 1909, she was given the title of Duchess of Hohenberg, which raised her status, but she still received less recognition than the other royal females. The couple gave birth to three children, Sophie (1901), Maximilian (1902), and Ernst (1904).
On June 28, 1914, Franz Ferdinand was riding with his wife in an automobile in the city of Sarajevo. At around 11 AM, a man named Gavrilo Princip, an assassin contracted by The Black Hand, a secret Pan-Slavic society, approached the vehicle and shot Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie. The event greatly increased European tensions and was one of the triggers that led to World War I.