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Old 03-03-2003, 01:46 PM
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Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria (1858-1889) (and Mayerling)

The Ghosts of Mayerling:
The death of Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria-Hungary (1858-1889)

By Art Beéche

The great history writer Stefan Zweig once said "Mystery excites creation." Since January 30, 1889, there is a name that symbolizes the mystery of a scandalous and tragic double death: Mayerling. The tragic and mysterious death Archduke Rudolf of Habsburg, Crown Prince of Austria-Hungary, immediately caused a dynastic crisis. Rudolf and his mistress Baroness Marie Vetsera were found dead at the Crown Prince's hunting lodge, Mayerling. The death of his only son devastated the Austrian emperor, since he had no other male heirs.

The Austro-Hungarian crown would therefore pass to the Emperor's brother, Karl-Ludwig, and eventually to this archduke's descendants. Karl-Ludwig had three sons: Franz-Ferdinand, of a sickly complexion, Otto, of a wild and debauched nature, and Ferdinand-Karl, who was only too ready to give up his imperial rights and become a commoner under the name Ferdinand Burg. Franz-Ferdinand contracted a morganatic marriage in 1900 with Countess Sophie Chotek, his children could not inherit the throne. Otto married Princess Maria-Jose of Saxony to satisfy the dynasty's pressing need for heirs. The marriage was loveless, and even though two children were born of it, Emperor Karl I and Archduke Ferdinand, Otto never stopped womanizing and enjoying all the pleasures that Vienna offered to a handsome member of the Habsburg dynasty. After Franz-Joseph's death in 1916, it was Archduke Otto's son Karl who finally inherited the crown. Archduke Karl in fact was the sixth heir-presumptive to Franz Joseph throne. The deaths at Mayerling took away the security of the imperial succession that Franz-Joseph had provided. Mayerling will forever hold the sign of tragedy and despair that later engulfed the Habsburg family.

Crown Prince Rudolf was the only son of Emperor Franz Joseph I and Empress Elisabeth, one of Europe's most beautiful princesses. Rudolf was born on August 21, 1858. He married Princess Stephanie of Belgium in 1881. Their marriage, as it happened frequently in the house of Habsburg, was arranged and involved little love between the young couple. Rudolf needed a wife with a more interesting than that of his child-bride. Stephanie was not even seventeen years of age at the time of her wedding and she failed to keep her husband from wandering the streets of Vienna in search of licentious enjoyments. The couple had only one daughter, Archduchess Elisabeth, born in 1883.

Since that fateful winter day in 1889, more than a century ago, much has been said, speculated and written about the deaths at Mayerling. Speculation has pointed to political intrigues, unspeakable love affairs, and international conspiracies. Yet the great mystery surrounding the death of Crown Prince Rudolf and Baroness Marie Vetsera still remains after more than a century. The last Austrian Empress, Zita, who died in 1989, once said she believed Rudolf had been the victim of an international political conspiracy engineered by Georges Clemenceau, the French Prime Minister. Zita did not believe that with such a promising life ahead of him, Crown Prince Rudolf would have chosen suicide under any circumstances. Zita alleged that Clemenceau was conspiring to overthrow Franz Joseph and place germanophobe Rudolf on the throne. This would allow Austria to break away from her allegiance to Germany and sign an alliance with France. Rudolf, Zita believed, refused to partake in the conspiracy and was killed to secure his silence.

Several historians believe that the key to unlock the events at Mayerling will most likely never be found. Many argue that the Austrian police's cover-up of the deaths of Rudolf and Marie Vetsera, his young and foolish lover, shrouded Mayerling in mystery. Furthermore, the tragic events at Mayerling continue to trouble many people who desperately want the mystery revealed. For example, just days before Christmas 1992 it was discovered that the mortal remains of Marie Vetsera had been mysteriously removed from the cemetery at Heiligenkreuz, where they had laid in deadly silence for more than a century. After initial consternation, the local police was able to track down the coffin and recover Vetsera's remains. To verify that the remains were those of young Marie, the police asked the Viennese Medical Institute to examine the remains and identify if indeed they were those of Mayerling victim.

Upon inspection of the human remains recovered by the police, medical examiners discovered that the head of the young woman lacked any traces of a perforating bullet. The cranial cavity was not destroyed by the suspected bullet that Crown Prince Rudolf had fired into his lover's head. On the contrary, the cranial cavity showed signs of trauma. These lacerations could have been caused by a heavy object or some gardening equipment, but not by a bullet. And if in fact this was the Vetsera's body, then the official version of a double suicide at Mayerling had been a hoax all along. Zita's version of the Mayerling tragedy seemed to hold ground.

The old Empress Zita's observations on Mayerling were founded on several disturbing facts. These were also an echo of the many speculations freely roaming around Viennese court circles after the death of Rudolf. On February 9, 1889, the German Ambassador in Vienna sent a missive to Berlin in which he reported a conversation with the Papal Nuncio, Monsignor Luigi Galimberti, and the Habsburg Court Chaplain, Monsignor Lorenz Mayer. During this conversation, the officious ambassador reported, the two well-informed prelates expressed their serious doubts concerning the official version of the events at Mayerling.

Half a century later, in 1946, the tomb of Marie Vetsera was desecrated by the occupying Soviet forces. Possibly looking for jewels, Soviet troops looted Marie Vetsera's remains. This profanity was not discovered until 1955 when the Red Army abandoned Austria. In 1959 specialists in funereal preservation, accompanied by a doctor and a member of the Vetsera family, examined the remains. They were all shocked to discover that the body of the young woman in the vault did not present any traces of death by firearm. What they did observe was a large trauma on the crown of the head. This fact supported the version which alleged that the mistress of the Austrian Crown Prince had not been killed by Rudolf, but had fallen foul to Rudolf's assassins. Yet in 1955, this macabre discovery was curiously ignored by all concerned.

The German note, as well as the forensic evidence found in Vetsera's body, are just many of the proofs challenging the official version of Rudolf and Marie's death. Many have alleged that Rudolf's body showed signs of a violent confrontation before death. Lacerations were discovered in several parts of the body. His hands showed signs of struggle, which might demonstrate that the poor Crown Prince tried desperately to fight off his would-be assassins. It also seems that the revolver used to kill both Rudolf and Vetsera was not the one owned by the Crown Prince, and that all six bullets were fired. In this case, Marie Vetsera was not the foul victim of a tragic love affair, but the unwilling witness of one of the most daring political assassinations ever achieved.

Rudolf's death brought ruin to his parents' marriage, uncertainty over the imperial succession, and ultimately the end of the ancient house of Habsburg. If he had not met with an untimely demise, Europe's history would have been tremendously different. Mayerling not only meant the death of two love struck people, it also robbed the Habsburgs of the one person who seemed most capable of keeping the tattered multinational monarchy from its eventual disintegration and collapse.

From: European Royal History
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Old 03-10-2008, 10:42 AM
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Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria (1853-1889) (and Mayerling)

2008,Crown Prince Rudolf year.

There will be a jubilee exhibition on Crown Prince Rudolf at Schönbrun Palace in Rudolfs former appartments starting this august:

Startseite - Schloss Schönbrunn


At present,there's the Schönbrunn Eastermarket,started last weekend.

Ostermarkt Schloß Schönbrunn
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Old 03-10-2008, 10:51 AM
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The most extensive site on Mayerling.
In german,speculation prohibited....great idea.......grin...

[ mayerling.info ] Das Mayerling-Archiv - Ein Forum für Forschung, die verbindet
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Old 03-30-2008, 12:26 PM
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I was wondeirng, what different theories have come up by now, about Mayerling? 1. Empress Zita said that the French secret service was behind it, 2. others say it was a love-affair gone sour and 3. again others say that it was Franz Joseph himself who ordered the 'murder' of Crownprince Rudolf. Are these the 3 main versions or am I missing any?
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Old 04-01-2008, 05:12 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marengo View Post
I was wondeirng, what different theories have come up by now, about Mayerling? 1. Empress Zita said that the French secret service was behind it, 2. others say it was a love-affair gone sour and 3. again others say that it was Franz Joseph himself who ordered the 'murder' of Crownprince Rudolf. Are these the 3 main versions or am I missing any?
I found that obviously some time ago at Official Kaiservilla Homepage - Welcome to the Kaiservilla - a website belonging to Marie Valerie's grandson Archduke Markus (so he is Rudolf's grandnephew) and adminstrated by a Valentin Habsburg (maybe Markus' son?) there was a text by Archduke M;arkus where he claimed that Rudolf had been suicidal but wasn't able to actually commit this suicide without the presence of Mary who agreed to die with him. Rudolf shot Mary but still couldn't commit suicide till he had set himself under the pressure of being found with Mary's body, so short before his footman came, he was honour-bound to kill himself as well.

I only found this summary of Markus' article, the article was gone from the homepage when I looked it up, but I have read this version before and it seems to make sense if we consider how much Habsburg-Wittelsbach -blood actually ran into Rudolf's veins and both families had their share of depression patients.
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Old 06-23-2008, 11:00 AM
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The trailer of the series ' The Crownprince' about Crownprince Rudolf and the Mayerling drama. Rudolf is played by Count Max von Thun und Hohenstein. Omar Sharif also features in the production.

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Old 06-23-2008, 12:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marengo View Post
I was wondeirng, what different theories have come up by now, about Mayerling? 1. Empress Zita said that the French secret service was behind it, 2. others say it was a love-affair gone sour and 3. again others say that it was Franz Joseph himself who ordered the 'murder' of Crownprince Rudolf. Are these the 3 main versions or am I missing any?
I have read that Prince Rudolph had suicidal tendencies and that before this successful attempt he had asked at least one other young lady to accompany him. That makes 4 theories (not necessarily mine).
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Old 07-19-2008, 07:42 AM
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Mayerling movie: Spoiler

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jo of Palatine View Post
I found that obviously some time ago at Official Kaiservilla Homepage - Welcome to the Kaiservilla - a website belonging to Marie Valerie's grandson Archduke Markus (so he is Rudolf's grandnephew) and adminstrated by a Valentin Habsburg (maybe Markus' son?) there was a text by Archduke M;arkus where he claimed that Rudolf had been suicidal but wasn't able to actually commit this suicide without the presence of Mary who agreed to die with him. Rudolf shot Mary but still couldn't commit suicide till he had set himself under the pressure of being found with Mary's body, so short before his footman came, he was honour-bound to kill himself as well.)
This was how it was portrayed in the movie. I must read a good book about this. Does anyone know of one?
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Old 07-19-2008, 07:44 AM
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Suicidal tendencies

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Originally Posted by Menarue View Post
I have read that Prince Rudolph had suicidal tendencies and that before this successful attempt he had asked at least one other young lady to accompany him. That makes 4 theories (not necessarily mine).
That's awful, Menarue. I feel very sorry for Mary. Apparently she was a very sweet, affectionate girl. I can understand the Prince committing suicide to a certain degree, but I think that he should have done it alone!
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Old 07-19-2008, 09:52 AM
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[quote=attaininggrace;800801]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jo of Palatine View Post
I found that obviously some time ago at Official Kaiservilla Homepage - Welcome to the Kaiservilla - a website belonging to Marie Valerie's grandson Archduke Markus (so he is Rudolf's grandnephew) and adminstrated by a Valentin Habsburg (maybe Markus' son?) there was a text by Archduke M;arkus where he claimed that Rudolf had been suicidal but wasn't able to actually commit this suicide without the presence of Mary who agreed to die with him. Rudolf shot Mary but still couldn't commit suicide till he had set himself under the pressure of being found with Mary's body, so short before his footman came, he was honour-bound to kill himself as well.)


This was how it was portrayed in the movie. I must read a good book about this. Does anyone know of one?
I've read a good one, in French, I do'nt know if it has been translated.

Rodolphe et les secrets de Mayerling
Jean des Cars
Perrin 2004 ISBN 2-262-01719-0
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Old 07-19-2008, 10:30 AM
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There is an interesting book about someone who seems to have been almost forgotten, who also suffered terribly with this. The book is in French and is called "Stéphanie, princesse héritiére dans l´ombre de Mayerling".
it is not a new book, and my copy was published in 1978.
I have just seen that it is a French translation from the German "Stephanie: Kronprinzessin im Schatten von Mayerling" It is by Irmgard Schiel.
Poor Stephanie, she had such a sweet face a very great tragedy for all involved.
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Old 07-19-2008, 12:11 PM
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I have to recommend brigitte hamann's "rudolf". written seriously with no fairy tales, no rumours around the tragedy including the historian facts of the late 19. century. hamann tells those ones (letters, diaries, official documents)which are water-proof. nothing else.
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Old 11-18-2008, 08:50 AM
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ArchduchessCatharina, or in spanish Catalina, of Habsburbg is going to release a new book, late this month, about Empress Elizabeth, Sissi, in wich she writes that Crown Prince Rudolf was murdered. She says that her grandmother and her father told her about it. The documents have disappeared, including a letter sent to the Pope by the Emperor. According to Empress Zita, the author was somebody close to Clemenceau, who was an enemy of the Habsburgs.
Asked about the Borbones, she says that Habsburgs are old-fashioned, while Borbones are more illustrated, more passionate and funnier.
About Kings expressing their opinions, she admired the King of Belgium when he did not sign the abortion law.
[La Esfera de los Libros]
- EL MUNDO | Suplemento cronica 683 - «El hijo de Sissi fue asesinado. No se suicidió.»
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Old 11-18-2008, 09:29 AM
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I've read a similar story, that Empress Zita once said that Rudolph was murdered by French and that she, or her son Otto, would have told (I don't know if consecutio temporum is right!) the whole story later, but She has died without telling what happend exactly...
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Old 11-19-2008, 02:28 PM
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I read another book written for Catalina of Habsburg, "Las Austrias". I enjoyed it very much, so I will read this one too. Thanks for the links!!!
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Old 10-21-2010, 10:31 AM
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Historic Habsburg Security

This may seem an oddball question, but what type of security arrangements did the Habsburgs have when they ruled? Did they simply rely on soldiers or were there plain clothes police as well?
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Old 10-21-2010, 04:44 PM
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Crown Prince Rudolf, especially in the last years of his life, was always followed and watched by (plain clothes) officials; I don't know if they were police officials or government officials, as his activities weren't appreciated at all by Wien government.
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Old 01-03-2011, 02:18 AM
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I used to work as Queen's Counsel for the CPS, Major Case Division before my retirement to New York City to live with my widowed sister.

Certain facts of the suspicious death of Kronprinz Rudolph are quite apparent to me in light of the disinternment of Baroness Marie Vetsera's mortal remains from their grave on the grounds of the Augustinian abbey. Those remains were disturbed twice: once by elements of the Red Army in pursuit of the Wermacht and looking for loot. The second instance by unknown grave robbers. As a result of both disinternments was a finding that the Baroness's skull showed no traces of a bullet wound of entry on its outer aspect, nor no shelving effect (coning) of a bullet exit wound on its inner aspect as it blew out. Evidence of pooled blood at a strike site on the skull indicates blunt force trauma, i.e., the Baroness was struck in the head with some object. This trauma may or may not have been lethal, but if the skull were fractured and underlying brain tissue injured she may have lapsed into coma and died from secondary causes such as respiratory distress.

Regarding Kronprinz Rudolph, clearly, he had been shot in the temple but which side of the skull is not reported. For the record, this is an important forensic point that any medical examiner would note because it has to do with which hand the Kronprinz favored, i.e., if right-handed, Rudolph would have been more inclined to have shot himself in the right temple. If shot in the left temple, a trained ME would probe further for consistencies in cause of death by the weaker hand and so on. If right-handed, a left temple wound would indicate suspicious death and a possible murder. Related to this is the tattooing effect on tissue from the pistol's muzzle blast. Police and the ME would look for this as being an indicator of suicide. This is not noted in the sources so far available. Nor is mention of blood back splatter on Rudolph's wrist, shirt cuff, jacket or military tunic cuff. No blood back splatter would indicate that Kronprinz Rudolph was a murder victim rather than a suicide victim. Furthermore, the photographs of Kronprinz Rudolph's lying in state on the funeral pall clearly show his white gloved hands. It is said that his body was found with his hands cut, nicked, and stabbed on the palms and backs as though defending himself against a knife attack. This factor indicates defensive wounds which is evidence of a murder rather than a suicide. Then, the revolver was termed as not belonging to the Kronprinz and having all 6 of its shells fired, overkill for a suicide, but most indicative of anger directed at the victim, i.e., insuring that the victim was dead with all rounds expended.

Who owned the fatal revolver and where did it end up?

Aside from an alleged, angry conversation with Kaiser Franz Joseph at which the Kronprinz was ordered to break off the affair with Marie Vetsera, did Rudolph have enemies at Court? Did he get on with the male relatives of his wife, Princess Stefannie of Belgium of whom Empress Elisabeth Eugenia (Sissi), Rudolph's mother, termed both "a clumsy bumpkin and a dull-witted woman." Presumably, Princess Stefannie had enemies at Court and did little to make amends.

In light of the Baroness having sustained a blunt force trauma to her skull rather than a bullet wound and the questionable manner of Kronprinz Rudolph's death, my finding would lean to murder with special circumstances--depraved indifference because it would appear that both the Kronprinz and Baroness were prisoners against their wills, the Kronprinz tortured (knife wounds on his hands and noted lacerations (cuts) on his torso), then shot to death with the Baronness having her skull shattered by some object but not shot.
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Old 01-03-2011, 02:56 AM
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One of the replies above mentions that a document or documents have gone missing from the Vatican Archives. I find that rather unlikely. Only approved persons with the appropriate credentials, academic or diplomatic, are allowed access and a Vatican librarian or archivist remains with the item or items to be viewed and that viewing takes place on site. Those documents do not leave the Archive.
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Old 01-03-2011, 03:58 AM
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One of the replies above mentions that a document or documents have gone missing from the Vatican Archives. I find that rather unlikely. Only approved persons with the appropriate credentials, academic or diplomatic, are allowed access and a Vatican librarian or archivist remains with the item or items to be viewed and that viewing takes place on site. Those documents do not leave the Archive.
Thank you for your posts, RobertvonLuxemborg. Your posts and that of the OP Julia shed light on an interesting moment in history. The events that led up to WWI are fascinating. It was a time truly driven by individuals and there are so many might-have-beens and if-onlys. This is one of them. Thank you for the clarifications.
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