People Targetted for Assessination Turning Points that Did and Did Not Change the Course of History
Political murders are as old as politics. Rulers have needed bodyguards to protect them from assassins since long before the word ‘assassin’ was invented – the name of the mystical cult of Hashashins based at Alamut Castle between the eighth and eleventh centuries.
Assassinations arise from many different motives: eliminating rivals to seize power in the state; using state power to eliminate perceived threats to security; lone assassins pursuing a personal agenda; insurgent groups promoting their cause against authority; terrorists motivated by ideology. The methods, the weapons and the political justifications might change with historical fashions but the principles of political assassination are always the same.
Some assassinations are merely shocking, tragic events that do not change anything. Other assassinations send out shock waves that change the course of history – it has often been claimed that the murder at Sarajevo in 1914 triggered the First World War. It is also worth considering the failed assassination attempts that might have changed the world if they had succeeded. This is often said about the July Plot to kill Hitler in 1944 but that was after Hitler had almost conquered all of Europe; the less well known near-miss by the lone assassin Georg Elser in Munich in 1939 might really have changed everything.
- King Eglon of the Moabites 1337 BCE Philip of Macedon 336 BCE Darius of Persia 330 BCE Qin Shi Huang 227 BCE Julius Caesar 44 BCE
- Caligula 41 Wenceslaus I of Bohemia 935 Archbishop Thomas Becket 1170 Przemsyl II of Poland 1296 Atahualpa Inca 1534
- William of Orange 1584 Henry III of France 1589 The Gunpowder Plot 1605 Henry IV of France 1610 Marat 1793
- The Orsini Plot 1858 Abraham Lincoln 1865 Tsar Alexander II 1881 The Empress ‘Sisi’ 1898 Piotr Stolypin 1911
- Archduke Franz Ferdinand 1914 The near-death of Franklin Roosevelt 1933 King Alexander of Yugoslavia & Louis Barthou 1934 The near-death of Adolf Hitler 1939 Reinhard Heydrich 1942
- The near-death of Charles De Gaulle 1962 President John F Kennedy 1963 Aldo Moro 1978 Claude Erignac 1998 Osama bin Laden 2011