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Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria
Crown Prince of Austria
Crown Prince of Austria Prince Royal of Hungary and Bohemia
Rudolf was raised together with his older sister Gisela and the two were very close. At the age of six, Rudolf was separated from his sister as he began his education to become a future Emperor of Austria. This did not change their relationship and Gisela remained close to him until she left Vienna upon her marriage to Prince Leopold of Bavaria.
In contrast with his deeply conservative father, Rudolf held liberal views that were closer to those of his mother. Nevertheless, his relationship with her was, at times, strained.
In 1886, Rudolf bought Mayerling a hunting lodge. In late 1888, the 30-year-old Crown Prince met the 17-year-old Marie Freiin von Vetsera, known by the more fashionable Anglophile name Mary, and began an affair with her. On 30 January 1889, he and the young Freiin (Baroness) were discovered dead in the lodge as a result of an apparent joint suicide. As suicide would prevent him from being given a church burial, Rudolf was officially declared to have been in a state of "mental unbalance", and he was buried in the Imperial Crypt (Kapuzinergruft) of the Capuchin Church in Vienna. Vetsera's body was smuggled out of Mayerling in the middle of the night and secretly buried in the village cemetery at Heiligenkreuz.
The Emperor had Mayerling converted into a penitential convent of Carmelite nuns and endowed a chantry so that daily prayers would eternally be said by the nuns for the repose of Rudolf's soul.
Vetsera's private letters were discovered in a safe deposit box in an Austrian bank in 2015, and they revealed that she was preparing to commit suicide alongside Rudolf, out of love.
Effect of Rudolf's death
Rudolf's death plunged his mother into despair. She wore black or pearl grey, the colours of mourning, for the rest of her life and spent more and more time away from the imperial court in Vienna. Empress Elisabeth was murdered while abroad in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1898 by an Italian anarchist, Luigi Lucheni.
Politically, Rudolf's death left Franz Joseph without a direct male heir. Franz-Joseph's younger brother, Archduke Karl Ludwig, was next in line to the Austro-Hungarian throne, though it was falsely reported that he had renounced his succession rights. In any case, his death in 1896 from typhoid made his eldest son, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the new heir presumptive. In 1914, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand precipitated World War I. Emperor Franz-Joseph died in November 1916 and was succeeded by his grandnephew, Karl I of Austria. The demands of American President Woodrow Wilson forced Emperor Karl to renounce involvement in state affairs in Vienna in early November 1918. As a result, the Austro-Hungarian Empire ceased to exist and a republic came into being without revolution. Karl and his family went into exile in Switzerland after spending a short time at Castle Eckartsau.
Japanese Takarazuka Revue's "Utakata no Koi"/"Ephemeral Love", based on the 1968 film.
Requiem for a Crown Prince, one-hour episode of the British documentary/drama series Fall of Eagles (1974), directed by James Furman and written by David Turner, tracks in detail the events of 30 January 1889 and the following few days at Mayerling.
Miklós Jancsó's 1975 film Vizi privati, pubbliche virtù (Private Vices, Public Virtues), a reinterpretation in which the lovers and their friends are murdered by imperial authorities for treason and immorality.
Crown Prince Rudolf during his early adulthood, c. 1879.
Official engagement photo of Crown Prince Rudolf and Princess Stéphanie of Belgium, 1881.
Painting "Allegory on the betrothal of Crown Prince Rudolf and Stephanie of Belgium" by Sophia and Marie Görlich, dated 1881.
Mayerling Lodge as it appeared before Crown Prince Rudolf's death there in 1889.
Crown Prince Rudolf's letter of farewell to his wife.
Crown Prince Rudolf placed in a bed for private viewing by his family at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna. His head had to be bandaged in order to cover gunshot wounds. When he later lay-in-state, his skull was reconstructed using wax so that his appearance was normal.
Crown Prince Rudolf's coffin lies to the right of his parents' coffins in the Imperial Crypt in Vienna.
Statue in memory of Crown Prince Rudolf in the City Park of Budapest.
^Kaiser Joseph II. harmonische Wahlkapitulation mit allen den vorhergehenden Wahlkapitulationen der vorigen Kaiser und Könige. Since 1780 official title used for princes ("zu Ungarn, Böhmen, Dalmatien, Kroatien, Slawonien, Königlicher Erbprinz")