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Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria

Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria

Austrian archduke
Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro Austrian archduke
A.K.A. Archduke Rudolf, Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria
Was Military officer Soldier Officer Naturalist
From Austria
Type Biology Military Science Social science
Gender male
Birth 21 August 1858, Laxenburg
Death 30 January 1889, Mayerling (aged 30 years)
Mother: Elisabeth of Bavaria
Father: Franz Joseph I of Austria
Siblings: Archduchess Sophie of AustriaArchduchess Gisela of AustriaArchduchess Marie Valerie of Austria
Spouse: Princess Stéphanie of Belgium
Children: Archduchess Elisabeth Marie of Austria
Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria
The details (from wikipedia)


Rudolf (21 August 1858 – 30 January 1889), who was Archduke of Austria and Crown Prince of Austria-Hungary, was the only son of Emperor Franz Joseph I and heir apparent to the Austro-Hungarian Empire from birth. In 1889, he died in a suicide pact with his mistress, Baroness Mary Vetsera, at the Mayerling hunting lodge. The ensuing scandal made international headlines. He was named after the first Habsburg King of Germany, Rudolf I, who assumed the throne in 1273.


Rudolf was born at Schloss Laxenburg, 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 an early age. After his death, large portions of his mineral collection came into the possession of the University for Agriculture in Vienna.

In 1877 the Count of Bombelles was master of the young prince. Bombelles was the former custodian of his aunt Empress Charlotte of Mexico.

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 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 wanted to write to Pope Leo XIII about the possibility of annulling his marriage to Stéphanie, but the Emperor forbade it.

Affairs and suicide

In 1887, Rudolf bought Mayerling, 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, 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, shot his mistress in the head and then shot himself. Rudolf was officially declared to have been in a state of "mental unbalance" in order to allow for his Roman Catholic 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.

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 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, Franz Ferdinand's assassination precipitated World War I. Emperor Franz-Joseph died in November 1916 and was succeeded by his grandnephew, Karl. The socialist revolution in Vienna in early November 1918 saw the end of the Empire and the exile of Karl and his immediate family.

Titles, styles and honours

Titles and styles

  • 21 August 1858 - 30 January 1889: His Imperial and Royal Highness The Crown Prince of Austria, Hungary, Bohemia and Croatia


  • Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece
  • Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Saint Stephen of Hungary
  •  United Kingdom: Knight of the Order of the Garter
  •  Prussia: Knight of the Order of the Black Eagle
  •  Denmark: Knight of the Order of the Elephant
  •  Kingdom of Italy: Knight of the Supreme Order of the Most Holy Annunciation
  •  Kingdom of Italy: Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus
  •  Kingdom of Italy: Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Crown of Italy
  •  Belgium: Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Order of Leopold
  •  Sweden: Knight Commander of the Royal Order of the Seraphim


Dramatic representations

  • Mayerling, a film directed by Anatole Litvak, with Charles Boyer and Danielle Darrieux, based on a novel by Claude Anet.
  • Sarajevo (1940), a film directed Max Ophüls starts with Rudolf's death.
  • The musical Marinka (1945), with book by George Marion Jr., and Karl Farkas, lyrics by George Marion, Jr., music by Emmerich Kalman.
  • Rudolf appears in the Austrian film Der Engel mit der Posaune (1948) and in the British remake of that film, The Angel with the Trumpet (1950).
  • Mayerling, a 1968 film, starring Omar Sharif as Crown Prince Rudolf, Catherine Deneuve as Mary with James Mason as Kaiser Franz Josef and Ava Gardner as Empress Elisabeth.
  • 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, Publiche Virtù (Private Vices, Public Virtues), a reinterpretation in which the lovers and their friends are murdered by imperial authorities for treason and immorality.
  • Kenneth MacMillan's 1978 ballet, Mayerling.
  • Rudolf appears as a character in the musical Elisabeth (1992)
  • Rudolf appears as a character in Lillie, played by Patrick Ryecart, Granada TV's dramatisation of the life of Lillie Langtry.
  • Japanese manga by Higuri You, "Tenshi no Hitsugi" (Angel's Coffin) (2000).
  • The Crown Prince (de), film directed by Robert Dornhelm (2006) in two parts.
  • Frank Wildhorn's musical Rudolf (2006).
  • The play Rudolf (2011) by David Logan dramatises the last few weeks of the life of Crown Prince Rudolf.
  • A highly fictionalized version of the incident at Mayerling is depicted in the 2006 film The Illusionist. The Crown Prince's name is Leopold in this telling.

The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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