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Castle of Konopiště in the Czech Republic

Czech Republic

The castle was the residence of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Habsburg throne. He furnished it with state-of-the-art plumbing and a collection of arms and armor. A zealous animal hunter, Ferdinand himself was shot and killed, starting World War I and ultimately ending Habsburg rule.

Complete Video Script

Thirty miles south of Prague is Konopiště, the lavish residence of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Its interior dates from about 1900, when the heir of the Habsburg throne, Franz Ferdinand, moved in. Against the wishes of his uncle, Emperor Franz Josef, Franz Ferdinand married a Czech countess, Žofie. To escape family problems back in Vienna, he purchased Konopiště and moved here to raise their three children and wait his turn to be emperor.

Money was no object as Franz Ferdinand turned his castle into a palace with all the latest comforts. As one of the first castles in Europe to have an elevator, a shower with hot and cold running water, and even a new-fangled flush toilet, Konopiště shows "modern" living around the year 1900.

The archduke had lots of time on his hands as his uncle, Emperor Franz Josef, held onto power from 1848 all the way until 1916. While he waited, Franz Ferdinand amassed one of the best collections of arms and armor in the entire world. The exhibit, mostly Italian from the 16th to the 18th centuries, raises weaponry to an art form.

And for Franz Ferdinand, guns were more than showpieces. Obsessed with hunting, he traveled around the world, shooting at anything with four legs: deer, bear, tigers, elephants, and this Polish buffalo. He actually recorded over 200,000 kills in his log. Keep in mind, royal hunting was a kind of massacre game, with his aids sweeping doomed animals into the archduke's eager sights. Over 4,000 trophies decorate the walls and halls of his castle.

Franz Ferdinand did more than his share of shooting. But in 1914, he himself was shot, along with his beloved wife Žofie, in Sarajevo. His assassination sparked World War I, which ultimately ended the rule of the Habsburg family — whose crown he had waited so long to inherit.