Rudolf of Austria-Hungary

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Crown Prince Rudolf (around 1880)
Signature of Rudolf of Austria-Hungary.JPG

Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria and Hungary (full first name Rudolf Franz Karl Joseph ; * August 21, 1858 in the New Laxenburg Palace ; † January 30, 1889 at Mayerling Castle ) was the only son of Emperor Franz Joseph I and Empress Elisabeth . He was constitutionally crown prince of imperial Austria ( Cisleithanien ) and royal Hungary . Like all Habsburg princes, in accordance with the house laws of the House of Habsburg-Lothringen , he bore the title Archduke , in Hungarian: főherceg, and was to be addressed with Imperial and Royal Highness .

Childhood and youth

Crown Prince Rudolf on his 4th birthday

The young Crown Prince was very sensitive and, at the request of his father, was to receive a tough military training. The son was to become a good soldier, enthusiastic hunter and good Catholic. Major General Leopold Graf Gondrecourt was appointed educator. He let the child exercise for hours in the rain and cold, occasionally woke him up with pistol shots and suddenly left him alone in the woods of the Lainzer Tiergarten , causing the child to panic.

This type of training was only ended under pressure from his mother and his natural science inclinations were encouraged, as Count Joseph Latour von Thurmburg appointed them to be his tutor. For example, the German animal researcher Alfred Brehm came to the court to teach him. Rudolf was an inquisitive and eager to learn child who was quick to grasp, but had little interest in reading, writing and foreign languages.

Next life

He undertook numerous trips, first in Europe, later also on other continents, about which he wrote several reports - under his name or anonymously. He suggested an Austria-Hungary encyclopedia , the so-called Kronprinzenwerk , and wrote it down himself. In addition, Crown Prince Rudolf was a respected ornithologist . He was often in conflict with his father because he represented liberal and anti-clerical views and preferred the strengthening of the "multinational consciousness" in the Habsburg Empire over national special rights.

Military service and love affair in Prague

After completing his studies, Rudolf moved to Prague in 1878, where he did his military service in Infantry Regiment 36 (1878 Colonel , 1880 Major General , 1882 Lieutenant Field Marshal , 1888 Gen. Inf. Insp.).

According to Berta Zuckerkandl , daughter of the newspaper publisher and long-time Rudolf friend Moriz Szeps , Rudolf had a love affair with a young woman of Jewish faith in Prague - according to his granddaughter Stephanie Windisch-Graetz (1909-2005) his one and only love. According to spy reports in the file of the Viennese police chief Franz von Krauss , this mistress even accompanied him to the bridal show at the Brussels court. She died after breaking out of the exile into which she was banished.

Marriage to Stephanie of Belgium

Crown Prince Rudolf and Crown Princess Stephanie

Under pressure from the emperor, Rudolf had to marry Princess Stephanie in 1881 , daughter of the Belgian king Leopold II. She was the second cousin of Rudolf's father Franz Joseph, as her mother Marie Henriette was a granddaughter of Emperor Leopold II .

The couple lived in Prague for some time , where there were repeated arguments. After the birth of their daughter, Archduchess Elisabeth Marie in Laxenburg in 1883, they returned to Vienna.

Death in Mayerling

Baroness Mary Vetsera (1887)
Mayerling Castle, place of death of Rudolf of Austria-Hungary and Mary Vetsera

Rudolf suffered from severe mood swings. He presumably committed suicide on the night of January 29th to 30th, 1889 in Mayerling Castle by shooting in the head. The 17-year-old Baroness Mary Vetsera also died there. According to the doctor's report, she had been shot by Crown Prince Rudolf. It has since been clarified that the baroness actually died from a shot in the head . The Viennese court physicians autopsied the corpse of the Crown Prince and, based on pathological findings in the brain, attested that the act had taken place in a “state of mental confusion”, which enabled the Crown Prince to be buried with all church ceremonies . Baroness Mary was brought to the Heiligenkreuz Abbey and buried in the cemetery of the Cistercian abbey .

At the beginning of February 1889, various reports about Crown Prince Rudolf and the Baroness appeared in the German press. However, they were distributed in Austria-Hungary on February 15 due to a decision by the k k. Regional court in Opava was banned.

The course of the fateful night remains unclear to this day, after the witnesses (including Rudolf's valet Johann Loschek ) remained silent or made contradicting statements all their lives. Many documents were destroyed. The Crown Prince's suicide shattered confidence in the Habsburg monarchy . The alleged murder weapon was in the possession of Otto von Habsburg ; he did not want to publish it all his life (1912–2011). Zita , Otto's mother and wife of the last emperor Karl, insisted in the last years of her life to historians that Rudolf and his Mary Vetsera were not killed by the Crown Prince himself in Mayerling, but "fallen victim to political assassins", according to the German news magazine Der Spiegel reported on Zita's death in 1989 in his short obituary. The historian Brigitte Hamann , herself the author of a Rudolf biography, described the role of the imperial widow in an interview with the Austrian weekly profil in 2005 with the words: “Empress Zita […] wanted us to believe that Rudolf was murdered from behind by the evil Freemasons had been [...]. That was deliberate smoke screen. "Reported early in 1983 , the time , that in the opinion Zita, who claimed it to be able to cite offenders by name, Rudolf" victim of a politically motivated assassination was "a foreign conspiracy because he was not in a conspiracy participate in the overthrow of Emperor Franz Joseph, but wanted to uncover them. According to Zita, the client was the French statesman Clemenceau .

In his will of March 2, 1887, Rudolf appointed his father, Emperor Franz Joseph, as executor . In addition, he asked him to take over the guardianship of daughter Elisabeth Marie (1883–1963), whom he also made his universal heiress.

After Rudolf's death, according to the Habsburg house laws, his uncle Karl Ludwig became the Austro-Hungarian heir to the throne.


When he was baptized, his name was written Rudolph , also when he married in 1881, in an obituary in 1889 Rudolf . The Kronprinz-Rudolf-Bahn , named after him, only bore the name f when it was founded . In 1903 there was a spelling reform in the whole of German-speaking countries, in which ph spellings were changed to f .

Rudolf was a sponsor of the Imperial and Royal Army Museum (now the Army History Museum ) in Vienna. From 1885 he was chairman of the committee responsible for creating and designing the Army Museum.

Mizzi Kaspar (1864–1907) was Rudolf's long-time lover. Rudolf wanted to kill himself with her, but she didn't want to die with him. She informed the police about Rudolf's suicide plans , but they were not followed up. Rudolf spent his last night in Vienna, from January 27th to 28th, 1889, with her; in the morning he left for Mayerling . Rudolf bequeathed Kaspar (at that time 24 years old) 30,000 guilders in his will.


Statue of Rudolf by Miklós Ligeti in Budapest

Several objects were or are named after Rudolf of Austria-Hungary:

  • Rudolfsbrücke over the Wien River (no longer existent) between the 1st district of Innere Stadt and the 3rd district of Landstrasse
  • Kronprinz-Rudolf-Brücke over the Danube between the 2nd district Leopoldstadt and the 22nd district Donaustadt ; renamed in 1919 in Reichsbrücke
  • Rudolfskaserne (today: Rossauer Kaserne ) in the 1st district of the inner city
  • Rudolfsplatz - in the 1st district of the inner city; named in 1862
  • Rudolfstiftung - municipal hospital at Juchgasse 25 in the 3rd district of Landstrasse
  • Rudolf-Hof in Hörlgasse 15 in the 9th district of Alsergrund
  • Rudolfsheim - today part of the 15th district of Rudolfsheim-Fünfhaus
  • Rudolfinerhaus - Spital at Billrothstraße 78 in the 19th district, Döbling
  • Numerous other traffic areas in Vienna, formerly named after Rudolf, have since been renamed.
Upper Austria

Rudolfstrasse in Linz - Urfahr as a central access road to Linz from the Mühlviertel .

Czech Republic


Pedigree of Rudolf of Austria-Hungary

Leopold II (HRR) (1747–1792)
⚭ 1765
Maria Ludovica of Spain (1745–1792)

Ferdinand IV (Naples) (1751–1825)
⚭ 1768
Maria Karolina of Austria (1752–1814)

Count Palatine
Friedrich Michael von Pfalz-Birkenfeld (1724–1767)
⚭ 1746
Maria Franziska Dorothea von Pfalz-Sulzbach (1724–1794)

Hereditary Prince
Karl Ludwig von Baden (1755–1801)
⚭ 1774
Amalie von Hessen-Darmstadt (1754–1832)

Wilhelm in Bavaria (1752–1837)
⚭ 1780
Maria Anna von Zweibrücken- Birkenfeld (1753–1824)

Ludwig Maria von Arenberg (1757–1795)
⚭ 1788
Anne de Mailly-Nesle (1766–1789)

Great grandparents

Franz II (HRR) (1768–1835)
⚭ 1790
Maria Theresa of Naples and Sicily (1772–1807)

Maximilian I Joseph (Bavaria) (1756–1825)
⚭ 1797
Karoline Friederike Wilhelmine von Baden (1776–1841)

Pius August in Bavaria (1786–1837)
⚭ 1807
Amalie Luise von Arenberg (1789–1823)


Archduke Franz Karl of Austria (1802–1878)
⚭ 1824
Sophie Friederike of Bavaria (1805–1872)

Duke Max Joseph in Bavaria (1808–1888)
⚭ 1828
Ludovika Wilhelmine of Bavaria (1808–1892)


Emperor Franz Joseph I (1830–1916)
⚭ 1854
Elisabeth in Bavaria (1837–1898)

Rudolf of Austria-Hungary (1858-1889)

Films and theater

Rudolf's coffin (right) next to his parents' coffins in the Imperial Crypt in Vienna

The events around Mayerling Castle were a popular topic in films:

Rudolf's fate and death are also dealt with in the 1992 musical Elisabeth .

A musical about the life story of the Crown Prince was commissioned by the United Theater in Vienna . It premiered in Budapest in May 2006 under the title Rudolf - the last kiss (in Hungarian ). The German premiere took place under the title Rudolf - Affaire Mayerling in February 2009 at the Raimund Theater in Vienna .

Museum reception

Several personal items of the Crown Prince are exhibited in the Vienna Army History Museum , of which Rudolf was a patron during his lifetime, such as the headgear he wore, his saber with portepee and a pompous revolver ( caliber 9 mm) made by Gasser .


  • Fifteen days on the Danube . Imperial-Royal Court and State Printing Office, Vienna 1878. (digitized version)
  • A trip to the Orient in 1881 . Imperial-Royal Court and State Printing House, Vienna 1885. (digitized)


Web links

Commons : Rudolf of Austria-Hungary  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Konrad Kramar, Petra Stuiber : The quirky Habsburgs - quirks and airs of an imperial family . Ueberreuter Verlag, Vienna 1999, ISBN 3-8000-3742-4 .
  2. ^ Brigitte Hamann: Crown Prince Rudolf. One life. Amalthea, Vienna 2005, ISBN 3-85002-540-3 , here pp. 146-148.
  3. ^ Crown Prince Rudolf - Traces of Life. (Pdf file) Info folder (caption and chapter texts) for the exhibition. Schönbrunn Palace Kultur- und Betriebsges.mbH / Federal Furniture Administration, accessed on February 3, 2012 .
  4. B. Hamann: Austrian Biographical Lexicon 1815-1950 online edition. Rudolf, Franz Karl Josef Erzhg. von Österr., Crown Prince (1858-1889). Retrieved May 18, 2017 .
  5. ^ Rudolf (Crown Prince of Austria-Hungary) in the Vienna History Wiki of the City of Vienna
  6. a b William M. Johnston: Österreichische Kultur- und Geistesgeschichte: Society and Ideas in the Danube Region 1848 to 1938. 2006, p. 51 , accessed on February 3, 2014 (Googlebooks).
  7. Interview with Stephanie von Windisch-Graetz in: Karo Wolm, Doris Plank: Der Fall Rudolf. (TV documentary of the ORF in the series Tat-Dinge special ) first broadcast on May 19, 2006.
  8. ^ John CG Röhl : Wilhelm II, Volume 1. 1993, p. 471 , accessed on February 3, 2014 (Googlebook).
  9. ^ Exhumation of the body of the MV and subsequent forensic examinations. Shown in the documentary television program “Der Fall Rudolf” (Austria 2006) on 3sat on April 8, 2012.
  10. Report. In:  Wiener Zeitung , February 2, 1889, p. 1 (online at ANNO ).Template: ANNO / Maintenance / wrz
  11. Findings. In:  Official Journal of the Wiener Zeitung , February 27, 1889, p. 1 (online at ANNO ).Template: ANNO / Maintenance / wrz
  12. After 42 years of silence, the last eyewitness speaks of Mayerling. In:  Wiener Sonn- und Mondags -Zeitung , No. 16/1931 (LXIX. Volume), April 20, 1931, p. 7 f. (Online at ANNO ). Template: ANNO / Maintenance / wsz.
  13. ^ Died: Zita von Habsburg . In: Der Spiegel . No. 12 , 1989, pp. 286 ( online ).
  14. See Elisabeth Mayr: The Mayerling Affair: Depicted on the basis of the Austrian historiography 1889–2006. Seminar paper at the Leopold-Franzens University Innsbruck, "Seminar: Political scandals and violence in Austria-Hungary until World War I", Innsbruck 2007 (published by Grin-Verlag) ISBN 978-3-640-30190-4 , p. 21. ( Limited view in Google Book Search .), Footnote 35: “'He wanted to kill himself while he still could'. Interview with Brigitte Hamann in: profile no. 42, year 36, October 2005, p. 120 "
  15. A great hit. In: The time . Edition 13/1983. (online) .
  16. "Crown Prince Rudolf - Traces of Life." Information folder (caption and chapter texts) for the 2008/2009 exhibition, p. 43.
  17. "Crown Prince Rudolf - Traces of Life." Info folder (caption and chapter texts) for the exhibition 2008/2009, p. 33: "Testament des Kronprinzen. Vienna, March 2, 1887, ink on paper, by hand. H 2_006 ".
  18. ^ Daily newspaper Die Presse , Vienna, No. 193, August 24, 1858, p. 2.
  19. ^ Heeresgeschichtliches Museum (Ed.): 100 Years of the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum. Known and unknown about its history. Heeresgeschichtliches Museum, Vienna 1991, p. 8 f.
  20. ^ Philipp Vandenberg: The emperor's breakfast wife. From the fate of the beloved. Bastei-Lübbe, Bergisch Gladbach 2007, ISBN 978-3-404-64221-2 , p. 67f.
  21. Placenames. Norwegian Polar Institute, accessed September 18, 2019 .
  22. Better to kiss the dog than the prince. - "Mayerling", a lost film with Audrey Hepburn, had its late theatrical premiere in Munich. June 30, 2013.
  23. ^ Liselotte Popelka: Army History Museum Vienna. Publishing house Styria, Graz u. a. 1988, ISBN 3-222-11760-8 , p. 50.
  24. ^ Manfried Rauchsteiner , Manfred Litscher (Ed.): The Army History Museum in Vienna. Publishing house Styria, Graz u. a. 2000, ISBN 3-222-12834-0 , p. 58.