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Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria

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Title: Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria  
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Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria

For the friend and patron of Beethoven, see Archduke Rudolf of Austria (1788–1831).
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(1889-01-30) (aged 30)
Mayerling, Austria-Hungary
Burial Imperial Crypt, Vienna

Rudolf (21 August 1858 – 30 January 1889), Archduke of Austria and Crown Prince of Austria-Hungary. His death, apparently through suicide, along with that of his mistress, Baroness Mary Vetsera, at his Mayerling hunting lodge in 1889 made international headlines.


Austrian Royalty
House of Habsburg-Lorraine

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 was born at 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 superintendent 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])

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. 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 distinctively liberal views, that were closer to those of his mother. Nevertheless his relationship with her was at times strained.


In Vienna, on 10 May 1881, Rudolf married Princess Stéphanie of Belgium, a daughter of King Leopold II of the Belgians, at the Augustinian's Church in Vienna. 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. Rudolf started having many affairs, and eventually wrote to Pope Leo XIII about the possibility of divorcing Stéphanie, but the Emperor forbade it.

Affairs and suicide

Main article: Mayerling Incident

In 1887, Rudolf bought Mayerling 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 and began an affair with her. According to official reports their 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 Christian 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 the 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

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 in Switzerland in 1898 by Italian anarchist, Luigi Lucheni.

Next in the line of succession after Rudolf to the Austrian, Bohemian, Croatia 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 sparked a chain of events that caused instability within Austria-Hungary and the collapse of the dynasty at the end of World War I in November 1918. Rudolf's father, Emperor Franz Joseph died in November 1916.

In film and theatre

  • De Mayerling à Sarajevo (1940 film), director Max Ophüls. The film starts with Rudolf's death.
  • The musical Marinka (1945), book by George Marion, Jr., and Karl Farkas, lyrics by George Marion, Jr., music by Emmerich Kalman
  • Japanese Takarazuka Revue's "Utakata no Koi"/"Ephemeral Love" (based on Mayerling) revolves around Rudolph and Marie Vetsera.
  • 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 Mary Vetsera's body away from Mayerling before scandal can erupt.
  • 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.
  • Rudolf also appears as a character in the musical Elisabeth (1992) and in Lillie, Granada TV's dramatisation of the life of Victorian society beauty, Lillie Langtry.
  • Japanese manga by Higuri You named "Tenshi no Hitsugi" (Angel's Coffin) (2000). Based on of his life and his mistress Mary Vetsera.
  • In The Illusionist (2006), the primary antagonist is the "Crown Prince Leopold", son of the Emperor Francis Joseph of Austria. In the film, Leopold's "progressive opinions" mask his contempt for his father and Austria-Hungary's constitutional monarchy, which Leopold regards as letting the Empire be "governed by mongrels." He plans to stage a coup d'etat, overthrow his father, dissolve Parliament, and govern by decree. When his fiancee denounces his plans and announces that she is leaving him for another man, Leopold (apparently) murders her in a jealous rage. In the film's climax, the Crown Prince commits suicide after an informer in the Vienna police tells the Emperor and the General Staff of his treasonous plot.
  • The Crown Prince, 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 Theatre.
  • The play Rudolf (2011) by David Logan dramatises the last few weeks of the life of Crown Prince Rudolf and features his relationship with his parents Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elisabeth as well as his wife Crown Princess Stephanie, his cousins Marie Larisch and Archduke Johan Salvator and his two mistresses Mary Vetsera and Mitzi Caspar.


See also


Further reading

  • 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.
  • Morton, Frederic. A Nervous Splendor: Vienna 1888/1889. Penguin 1979
  • 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).
  • Salvendy, John T. Royal Rebel: A Psychological Portrait of Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria-Hungary. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1988.

External links


  • A profile of Marie Vetsera
  • Crown Prince Rudolf's Coffin
  • IMDB on various Mayerling Films
  • Crown Prince Rudolfs death
Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria
Cadet branch of the House of Lorraine
Born: 21 August 1858 Died: 30 January 1889
Austro-Hungarian royalty
Preceded by
Ferdinand Maximilian
Heir-apparent to the Austrian throne
21 August 1858 – 30 March 1867
Succeeded by
Establishment of Austria-Hungary
New title
Austria-Hungary established
Heir-apparent to the Austrian-Hungarian throne
30 March 1867 – 30 January 1889
Succeeded by
Karl Ludwig
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