A Hunting Accident Might Have Changed The Course Of History

“Chance is the pseudonym of God when he did not want to sign.” —Theophile Gautier, La croix de Berny (translated from the French)

In A Nutshell

On June 28, 1914, a deranged Yugoslav nationalist named Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, resulting in the unprecedented mayhem of World War I. Globally, around 16 million people lost their lives, with Europe being utterly devastated. But it nearly didn’t happen. Seven months before he was murdered on the streets of Sarajevo, Franz Ferdinand came within inches of being killed in a hunting accident.

The Whole Bushel

In November 1913, Archduke Ferdinand and his wife received an invitation from the Duke of Portland to visit Britain. Although officially a social visit, there were political undertones to the meeting as well. With tensions in Europe at an all-time high, leaders everywhere were looking to show a bit of diplomacy.

Part of that diplomacy involved being very kind to guests. While Archduke Ferdinand was visiting Welbeck Abbey, the Duke of Portland went out of his way to show him every courtesy—including a hunting trip the two took that could’ve changed the world.

Setting off with shotguns and a few dozen men, the two had ventured out onto the Duke’s estate to bag some pheasants. Halfway through the day, one of the servants happened to slip while loading a gun. Instantly both barrels discharged, blasting white hot lead directly at the visiting Archduke.

Luckily for Franz Ferdinand—and perhaps unluckily for everyone else on Earth—the shot missed him by a tiny distance and tragedy was averted. The two finished up their day’s hunting, Archduke Ferdinand returned home, and seven months later caught a bullet from Princip’s gun.

The rest is history. As a direct result of the assassination, Europe went to war, slaughtering 16 million. From the ashes rose the German Weimar government, which led to Hitler’s rise to power and World War II, which led to the Blitz, the Holocaust, and Hiroshima. In total, all these disasters combined killed in excess of 75 million people. Had the barrels of that shotgun been pointing a fraction of an inch sideways, none of it might have ever happened.

Show Me The Proof

BBC News: Could Franz Ferdinand Welbeck gun accident have halted WWI?
ABC News: Archduke Franz Ferdinand: The man whose assassination is blamed for triggering World War I

  • Nathaniel A.

    While fun to think about, this isn’t very realistic, World War I likely would have happened anyway. To start with, there is no evidence that Gavrilo Princip had any connection with the Serbian Government, and the government was falsely accused by Austria-Hungary in order to have a precedent for war. Simply put, tensions between Serbia and Austria-Hungary were high, and it’s very possible that another spark would have lit the powder keg, maybe one year down the line, maybe five, but it would have happened. War was inevitable due to every country in the area (and many in wider Europe) having their own nationalist agenda.





  • The LV Time Travelling Bro Fist Club took a shot at the Arch Duke ‘recently’, but missed him by inches. So, while not managing to prevent WW I – though Nathanial’s post proves that such a feat would have to be accomplished by more drastical measures – but it looks like we took out that Scottish Indierock-band.

    • Lisa 39

      Bro fist club -1
      Awful music- 0

      • Nomsheep

        I reformed the group. Score one for awful music.

        • Lisa 39

          (Don’t tell the guys but I don’t think its awful, I don’t go out of my way for it tho ;))

          • Nomsheep

            It’ll be kept just between us and the rest of the English Speaking world

          • Lisa 39


  • oouchan

    Meh….I think tensions were already high so it wouldn’t have made a difference…maybe to timing, is all. It might have pushed back the start, but I doubt it would have stopped it from happening. Just more fuel for the fire. However, it was nice to speculate the “what might have been”.


    • If it was that, then there would have been some other incident that set the powder keg off.

  • Clyde Barrow

    Perhaps it’s just me, but reading the title instantly made me think of Darth..uh I mean Dick Cheney. Vice President and Dark Lord of hunting accidents.

    • Check

      Ah, the things our leaders do to pass the time.