My daughter, who is studying the origins of World War I in school, has been taught that Archduke Franz Ferdinand was killed in Sarajevo because of a remarkable coincidence: after the failure of the initial assassination attempt, Gavrilo Princip had gone off to get himself some lunch, and the Archduke's car happened to stop directly in front of him while he was busy eating a sandwich in a roadside cafe.
This was news to me, and none of the historical material I have to hand - Smith's One Morning in Sarajevo
,for instance - makes any such claim. Yes, it seems generally accepted that Princip was standing near Schiller's delicatessen when Franz Ferdinand appeared, but the every source I've seen suggests that he was standing on the street when the car hove into view, not sitting in a deli.
Nonetheless, a quick internet search shows that this peculiar "fact" has evidently wormed its way into schools other than my daughters', and it seems the story of Princip's sandwich is actually being widely taught, at least in Britain and the US. There are hundreds of references to the story online, many of them facetious queries from school-age students as to what sort of sandwich it may have been.
Petty though the point is, it irks me not to know how the story first made its way into circulation and whether it has any sort of basis in fact. My guess is that it owes much of its popularity to the fact that it was mentioned in a documentary reconstruction, "The Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hE8552joxfE
) of the assassination that has been shown on BBC 4 here in the UK, and presumably elsewhere. This documentary was certainly the one screened for the history class in my daughter's school. It's not a scrupulously accurate production - it makes the killers seem far more professional than they were, and makes various other statements I've seen contradicted, for example suggesting the assassin Cabrinovic failed to kill himself because he cyanide was - in not quite so many words - past its sell-by date (Smith disputes this and suggests Cabrinovic failed to take a sufficiently large dose.) And I can see how the story may have made its way onto film by a process of reinforcement of some error, or joke. ("So Franz Ferdinand was shot because his car stopped where Princip was waiting by a deli." "What was he doing there?" "I don't know. Probably buying a sandwich.") Whatever the truth, the documentary makes no mention of its source for the sandwich statement.
Personally, I have my doubts whether so quintessentially British a convenience food as the sandwich was even on the menus in Bosnia as early as 1914 - I remember there being quite a fanfare when the French took up sandwich-eating in quite a big way when Marks & Spencer began to penetrate the local lunch market as late as the early 1990s. But I would like to be sure.
Does anyone know when and how this story first emerged, and if the legend of Gavrilo Princip's sandwich can be traced to any contemporary source? Is the story taught in Austrian (or Bosnian) schools? And if there really is anything in the tale, is there, actually, any way of discovering what sort of sandwich it was?