Sophie was the daughter of the chief equerry at the Imperial Court in Vienna. When a young woman, Sophie became lady in waiting to the Archduchess Isabella of Pressburg. Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, first met Sophie at a dance in Prague in 1888. The couple fell in love but although Sophie came from a prominent Bohemian family, Franz Ferdinand knew that she would not be accepted as the wife of the future emperor.
Sophie and Franz Ferdinand kept their relationship a secret for over two years. When Franz Ferdinand began to make regular visits to the home of Archduke Friedrich of Pressburg, it was assumed he had fallen in love with his eldest daughter, Marie Christine.
One evening, after Franz Ferdinand had been staying at the home of Archduke Friedrich, a servant found a watch and locket he had left behind. When the Archduchess opened the locket, she found it contained a photograph. She expected it to be a picture of her daughter, Marie Christine, and was shocked and angry to discover it was of Sophie, her lady in waiting. Sophie was immediately dismissed and the knowledge of her relationship with Franz Ferdinand created a public scandal.
Emperor Franz Josef immediately made it clear to Archduke Franz that he would not be allowed to marry Sophie. To be an eligible partner for a member of the Austro-Hungarian royal family, you had to be descended from the House of Hapsburg or from one of the ruling dynasties of Europe.
Franz Ferdinand insisted he would not marry anyone else. Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and Pope Leo XIII all made representations to Franz Josef on Franz Ferdinand's behalf arguing that the the disagreement was undermining the stability of the monarchy.
In 1899 Emperor Franz Josef agreed a deal with Franz Ferdinand. He was allowed to marry Sophie but it was stipulated that her descendants would not be allowed to succeed to the throne. It was also pointed out that Sophie would not be allowed to accompany her husband in the royal carriage nor could she sit by his side in the royal box.
Franz Josef did not attend the wedding. Nor did his brothers or their families. The only people of the royal family who went to the ceremony was Franz Ferdinand's stepmother, Maria Theresia, and her two daughters. Over the next few years the couple had three children: Sophie (1901), Maximilian (1902) and Ernst (1904).
In 1914 General Oskar Potiorek, Governor of the Austrian provinces of Bosnia-Herzegovina, invited Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Sophie to watch his troops on maneuvers in June, 1914. Franz Ferdinand knew that the visit would be dangerous. A large number of people living in Bosnia-Herzegovina were unhappy with Austrian rule and favoured union with Serbia.
Usually not allowed to accompany the Archduke, Ferdinand arranged for her to come as an anniversary gift. She was ecstatic.
Just before 10 o'clock on Sunday, 28th June, 1914, the royal couple arrived in Sarajevo by train. General Oskar Potiorek, Governor of the Austrian provinces of Bosnia-Herzegovina, was waiting to take the royal party to the City Hall for the official reception. In the front car was Fehim Curcic, the Mayor of Sarajevo and Dr. Gerde, the city's Commissioner of Police. Franz Ferdinand and Sophie were in the second car with Oskar Potiorek and Count von Harrach. The car's top was rolled back in order to allow the crowds a good view of its occupants.
At 10.10, when the six car possession passed the central police station, Nedjelko Cabrinovic hurled a hand grenade station at the archduke's car. The driver accelerated when he saw the object flying towards him and the grenade exploded under the wheel of the next car. Two of the occupants, Eric von Merizzi and Count Boos-Waldeck were seriously wounded. About a dozen spectators were also hit by bomb splinters.
After attending the official reception at the City Hall, Franz Ferdinand asked about the members of his party that had been wounded by the bomb. When the archduke was told they were badly injured in hospital, he insisted on being taken to see them. A member of the archduke's staff, Baron Morsey, suggested this might be dangerous, but Oskar Potiorek, who was responsible for the safety of the royal party, replied, "Do you think Sarajevo is full of assassins?" However, Potiorek did accept it would be better if Sophie remained behind in the City Hall. When Baron Morsey told Sophie about the revised plans, she refused to stay arguing: "As long as the Archduke shows himself in public today I will not leave him."
In order to avoid the city centre, General Oskar Potiorek decided that the royal car should travel straight along the Appel Quay to the Sarajevo Hospital. However, Potiorek forgot to tell the driver, Franz Urban, about this decision. On the way to the hospital, Urban took a right turn into Franz Joseph Street. One of the conspirators, Gavrilo Princip, happened to be was standing on the corner at the time. Oskar Potiorek immediately realised the driver had taken the wrong route and shouted "What is this? This is the wrong way! We're supposed to take the Appel Quay!".
The driver put his foot on the brake, and began to back up. In doing so he moved slowly past the waiting Gavrilo Princip. The assassin stepped forward, drew his gun, and at a distance of about five feet, fired several times into the car. Franz Ferdinand was hit in the neck and Sophie in the abdomen. Sophie said to her husband, "For God's sake what happened to you". then she fell bleading. Before losing consciousness, he pleaded "Sophie dear! Sophie dear! Don't die! Stay alive for our children!" They were dead in an hour.