Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria: Wikis


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The Archduke Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria
Crown Prince of Austria, Hungary and Bohemia
Spouse Princess Stéphanie of Belgium
    Archduchess Elisabeth Marie of Austria
House House of Habsburg-Lorraine
Father Franz Joseph I of Austria
Mother Elisabeth of Bavaria
Born 21 August 1858
Laxenburg, Austrian Empire
Died 30 January 1889 (aged 30)
Mayerling, Austria-Hungary
Burial Imperial Crypt, Vienna

The Archduke Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria, Hungary and Bohemia (21 August 1858 - 30 January 1889) was the son and heir of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria and Empress Elisabeth of Austria. His death, apparently through suicide, along with that of his mistress, Baroness Mary Vetsera, at his Mayerling hunting lodge in 1889 made international headlines, fueled international conspiracy rumours and ultimately may have sealed the long-term fate of the Habsburg monarchy.



The young crown prince Rudolf during his adolescence

Archduke Rudolf Franz Karl Joseph (later Crown Prince) was born on 21 August 1858 in Schloss Laxenburg,[1] a castle near Vienna, as the son of Emperor Franz Joseph I and Empress Elisabeth. Influenced by his tutor Ferdinand von Hochstetter (who later became the first manager of the Imperial Natural History Museum), Rudolf became very interested in natural sciences, starting a mineral collection at a very early age.[1] (After his death, large portions of his mineral collection came into the possession of the University for Agriculture in Vienna.[1]).

Crown Prince Rudolf was raised together with his older sister Gisela by their paternal grandmother Archduchess Sophie. His parents' oldest child, a daughter named Sophie, died at the age of two before Rudolf was born, while younger sister Marie-Valerie was born ten years after Rudolf. Hence, Gisela and Rudolf grew up together and were very close. At the age of six, he was separated from his sister as he began his education to become a future Emperor. This did not change their relationship and Gisela remained close to him until she left Vienna upon her marriage to Prince Leopold of Bavaria. The siblings' parting was said to be very emotional.


Official engagement photo of Crown Prince Rudolf and Princess Stéphanie of Belgium (1881)

In contrast with his deeply conservative father, Crown Prince Rudolf held distinctively liberal views that were closer to those of his mother. Nevertheless his relationship with her was strained and contained little warmth. In Vienna, on 10 May 1881, he married Princess Stéphanie of Belgium, a daughter of King Leopold II of the Belgians, in The Augustinian's Church in Vienna with all the pomp and splendour of a state wedding. Rudolf appeared to be genuinely in love, but his mother regarded her new daughter-in-law as a "clumsy oaf." By the time their only child, the Archduchess Elisabeth, was born on 2 September 1883, the couple had drifted apart, and he found solace in drink and other female companionship.

In 1887, Rudolf bought Mayerling and transformed it into a hunting lodge. In late 1888, the 30-year-old crown prince met the 17-year-old Baroness Marie Vetsera, known by the more fashionable Anglophile name Mary. From the start, Mary adored him, and was ready to do anything for him. It was almost certainly not the great romance of his life, but Rudolf did have feelings for her, and was touched by her limitless, almost fanatical, love for him.

Affairs and suicide

Mayerling lodge as it appeared when the crown prince killed himself there (before 1889)
The crown prince lying-in-state. His head had to be bandaged in order to cover the self-inflicted gunshot wounds.
Crown Prince Rudolf (right) lies entombed next to his parents in the Imperial Crypt in Vienna.
Statue in memory of the crown prince in the City Park of Budapest

According to official reports the deaths were a result of Franz Joseph's demand that the couple end the relationship: the Crown Prince, as part of a suicide pact, first shot his mistress in the head and then himself. Rudolf was officially declared to have been in a state of "mental unbalance" in order to enable burial in the Imperial Crypt (Kapuzinergruft) of the Capuchin Church in Vienna. Mary's body was smuggled out of Mayerling in the middle of the night and secretly buried in the village cemetery at Heiligenkreuz. After their deaths the Emperor had Mayerling converted into a penitential convent of Carmelite nuns. Today prayers are still said daily by the nuns for the repose of Rudolf's soul.

Impact of Rudolf's death

Following Rudolf's death, the marriage of his parents collapsed completely, with his mother spending much of her time abroad up until her own murder nine years later.

Next in the line of succession after Rudolf to the Austrian, Bohemian, and Hungarian thrones was Archduke Karl Ludwig, Franz Joseph's younger brother. Karl Ludwig renounced his succession rights a few days after Rudolf’s death, meaning his oldest son, Archduke Franz Ferdinand became heir presumptive.[2] Franz Ferdinand's assassination in 1914 led to a chain of events that produced World War I. When Franz Joseph died in 1916, the throne passed to his grandnephew, Archduke Karl, who became the last Austro-Hungarian monarch as Emperor Karl of Austria.

Film and Theatre

  • Crown Prince Rudolph, TV film directed by Robert Dornhelm (2006) in two parts. Historical adviser: Brigitte Hamann. Here, the love story and the conflict between father and son are embedded in the general political situation of the time in Central Europe.
  • Frank Wildhorn's new musical Rudolf centers around Crown Prince Rudolf. It premiered at the Operetta Theatre in Budapest in 2006 and ran for three years. The Vienna production opened 26 February 2009 at the Raimund Theater.
  • In The Illusionist (2006), a central character is the fictitious "Crown Prince Leopold," son of the Emperor Francis Joseph of Austria. In the film, "Leopold" commits suicide after a failing in a plot to overthrow his father and (apparently) murdering his fiancée. However, Prince Leopold is portrayed as right-wing and an autocratic absolutist who often complains of "mongrels."
  • Kenneth MacMillan's 1978 ballet, Mayerling
  • Miklós Jancsó's 1975 film Vizi Privati, Publiche Virtù (Private Vices, Public Virtues) is a daring reinterpretation of the Mayerling incident, in which the lovers and their friends are murdered by imperial authorities for plotting the Emperor's overthrow and for gross immorality and Mary Vetsera was portrayed as a hermaphrodite, which has no basis in history. The film was denounced by some critics as gratuitously graphic, but the director's point is how the decay and hypocrisy of the empire was reflected in the prince's desperately aberrant behavior.
  • Requiem for a Crown Prince, fourth episode of the British documentary/drama series Fall of Eagles (1974), about the collapse of the Romanov, Habsburg and Hohenzollern dynasties. Directed by James Furman and written by David Turner, the 60-minute episode tracks in detail the events of Wednesday 30 January 1889, at Mayerling as well as the following few days - The discovery of the dead bodies, the breaking of news to Rudolf's family, the desperate attempts to cover up what really happened - even to the Emperor and Empress - and the secret smuggling of Marie Vetsera's body away from Mayerling before scandal can erupt.
  • Mayerling (1968 film), starring Omar Sharif as Crown Prince Rudolf, Catherine Deneuve as Mary.
  • The musical Marinka (1945), book by George Marion, Jr., and Karl Farkas, lyrics by George Marion, Jr., music by Emmerich Kalman
  • De Mayerling à Sarajevo (1940 film), director Max Ophuls. The film starts with Rudolf's death.
  • Mayerling, is a black and white dramatization based on the novel by Claude Anet. It is directed by Anatole Litvak and stars Charles Boyer as Crown Prince Rudolf and Danielle Darrieux as Maria Vetsera.
  • Japanese Takarazuka Revue's "Utakata no Koi"/"Ephemeral Love" revolves around Rudolph and Marie Vetsera.
  • Rudolf also appears as a character in the musical Elisabeth.


Further reading

Austrian Royalty
House of Habsburg-Lorraine
Wappen Kaisertum Österreich 1815 (Klein).png

Francis I
(Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor)
Children include
   Archduchess Marie Louise
   Ferdinand I
   Archduchess Maria Leopoldina
   Archduchess Clementina
   Archduke Franz Karl
Grandchildren include
   Franz Joseph I
   Archduke Maximilian
   Archduke Karl Ludwig
   Archduke Ludwig Viktor
Great-grandchildren include
   Archduke Franz Ferdinand
   Archduke Otto Franz
Ferdinand I
Franz Joseph I
   Archduchess Sophie
   Archduchess Gisela
   Crown Prince Rudolf
   Archduchess Marie Valerie
Grandchildren include
   Archduchess Elisabeth Marie
Charles I
Children include
   Crown Prince Otto
   Archduke Robert
   Archduke Felix
   Archduke Karl Ludwig
   Archduke Rudolf
Grandchildren include
   Archduchess Andrea
   Archduchess Monika
   Archduchess Michaela
   Archduchess Gabriela
   Archduchess Walburga
   Archduke Karl
   Archduke Georg
   Archduke Lorenz
Great-Grandchildren include
   Archduke Ferdinand Zvonimir
   Archduke Amedeo
  • Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria. Majestät, ich warne Sie... Geheime und private Schriften. Edited by Brigitte Hamann. Wien: Amalthea, 1979, ISBN 3-85002-110-6 (reprinted München: Piper, 1998, ISBN 3-492-20824-X).
  • Barkeley, Richard. The Road to Mayerling: Life and Death of Crown Prince Rudolph of Austria. London: Macmillan, 1958.
  • Franzel, Emil. Crown Prince Rudolph and the Mayerling Tragedy: Fact and Fiction. Vienna : V. Herold, 1974.
  • Hamann, Brigitte. Kronprinz Rudolf: Ein Leben. Wien: Amalthea, 2005, ISBN 3-85002-540-3.
  • Listowel, Judith Márffy-Mantuano Hare, Countess of. A Habsburg Tragedy: Crown Prince Rudolf. London: Ascent Books, 1978.
  • Lonyay, Károly. Rudolph: The Tragedy of Mayerling. New York: Scribner, 1949.
  • Salvendy, John T. Royal Rebel: A Psychological Portrait of Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria-Hungary. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1988.
  • Morton, Frederic. A Nervous Splendor: Vienna 1888/1889. Penguin 1979

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Crown Prince Rudolf (1858-1889)" (museum notes), Natural History Museum of Vienna, 2006, NHM-Wien-Rudolfe.
  2. ^ "The Crown Prince’s Successor". New York Times. 2 February 1889. 

External links



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