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Encyclopedia > Mayerling Incident
Hunting lodge and Carmelite church at Mayerling

The term Mayerling Incident refers to the series of events leading to the apparent murder-suicide of Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria and his lover Baroness Mary Vetsera. The couple's bodies were discovered in a hunting lodge in Lower Austria on January 30, 1889. Image File history File links Metadata Size of this preview: 800 × 600 pixelsFull resolution (1280 × 960 pixel, file size: 492 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ... Image File history File links Metadata Size of this preview: 800 × 600 pixelsFull resolution (1280 × 960 pixel, file size: 492 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ... Origin and early history Carmelites (in Latin Ordo fratrum Beatæ Virginis Mariæ de monte Carmelo) is the name of a Roman Catholic order founded in the 12th century by a certain Berthold (d. ... Mayerling can refer to: Mayerling, a village and hunting lodge in Lower Austria. ... This article or section is incomplete and may require expansion and/or cleanup. ... The last photograph taken of Baroness Mary Vetsera (R). ... Mayerling is a hunting lodge in Lower Austria, where on January 30, 1889 Archduke Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria, only son of Emperor Franz Joseph and Elisabeth and heir to the Austro-Hungarian crown, was found dead with his mistress Baroness Marie Vetsera, apparently as a result of suicide. ... Map of Lower Austria showing districts and the four quarters (Waldviertel in green, Weinviertel in red, Mostviertel in yellow and Industrieviertel in blue) Lower Austria (de: Niederösterreich) is one of the nine states or Bundesländer in Austria. ... January 30 is the 30th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1889 (MDCCCLXXXIX) was a common year starting on Tuesday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar (or a common year starting on Thursday of the 12-day slower Julian calendar). ...

Contents

The Incident

Crown Prince Rudolf
Mary Vetsera

By 1889, it was known by many, including both his wife Stephanie, and his father Franz Joseph, that Rudolf and Mary were having an affair. Rudolf’s marriage to Stephanie had resulted in the birth of one daughter, Elisabeth, and was not particularly happy. Rudolf had no male heir. It is rumoured that the reason why Stephanie was unable to have any more children was that she was infected by Rudolf with venereal disease. Image File history File linksMetadata Download high resolution version (638x1109, 135 KB) Summary Licensing File links The following pages on the English Wikipedia link to this file (pages on other projects are not listed): Mayerling Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria Metadata This file contains additional information, probably added from the... Image File history File linksMetadata Download high resolution version (638x1109, 135 KB) Summary Licensing File links The following pages on the English Wikipedia link to this file (pages on other projects are not listed): Mayerling Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria Metadata This file contains additional information, probably added from the... Image File history File links Metadata Size of this preview: 487 × 600 pixelsFull resolution (648 × 798 pixel, file size: 465 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ... Image File history File links Metadata Size of this preview: 487 × 600 pixelsFull resolution (648 × 798 pixel, file size: 465 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) File history Legend: (cur) = this is the current file, (del) = delete this old version, (rev) = revert to this old version. ... Stéphanie, Princess of Belgium and of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Duchess in Saxony (Stéphanie Clotilde Louise Herminie Marie Charlotte of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, 21 May 1864 – 23 August 1945) was the wife of Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria-Hungary. ... Elisabeth Maria Henriette Stephanie Gisela, Archduchess of Austria, (2 September 1883 – 16 March 1963) was the only child of Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria and Princess Stéphanie of Belgium. ...


On the morning of January 30 1889, Mary and Rudolf were found dead at Rudolf’s hunting lodge Mayerling. The death of his only son devastated Franz Joseph I. As Rudolf had no son, the next male heir was Franz Joseph's nephew, Franz Ferdinand. Franz Joseph I Franz Joseph (in English also Francis Joseph) (August 18, 1830 - November 21, 1916) of the Habsburg Dynasty was Emperor of Austria and King of Bohemia from 1848 until 1916 and King of Hungary from 1867 until 1916. ... This article or section does not cite any references or sources. ...


The initial official explanation for the incident was that Rudolf had suffered heart failure; Mary was not mentioned and her body was buried secretly. However, the official story did not hold up well, and it later had to be admitted that Rudolf had committed suicide. Many stories were floated about the pair’s death, with the most widely accepted being that the two lovers had carried out a suicide pact after Franz Joseph demanded they separate. Rudolf shot his mistress in the head, then sat by her body for several hours before shooting himself. A special dispensation from the Vatican was obtained, declaring Rudolf to be in a state of “mental imbalance” in order for Rudolf to be buried in the Imperial Crypt. An ornament of the sarcophagus of Emperor Karl VI: a deaths head with the crown of the Holy Roman Empire Tomb of Franz Josef I, flanked by wife Elisabeth and son Rudolf. ...


Alternative theories

Mainstream historians generally dismissed the idea that there was more to the Mayerling Incident than a simple murder-suicide. However some have argued that the official story may be incorrect.


Empress Zita

Notably, Empress Zita, (born 1892), widow of the last Emperor, Karl (r: 1916-1918) and last surviving Imperial to remember the Incident, claimed that the Crown Prince was murdered, and the crime was disguised as a double suicide. The responsible party were Austrian security officials, in response to the Prince’s suspected pro-Hungarian sympathies, or French agents because he refused to participate in the deposition of his pro-German father. No evidence has been discovered to support either of these theories. This article or section does not cite any references or sources. ... Karl I, a. ...


Political conspiracy

The idea that the Prince was killed for political reasons, with Vetsera’s death used to cover up the crime, is one of more popular theories surrounding Mayerling.[citation needed]


This theory rests in part on the idea that the affair between Vetsera and Prince Rudolf was an open secret in the Imperial Family. Indeed, Rudolf’s wife, Princess Stéphanie was carrying on her own affair. Thus, the Emperor’s demand that the couple separate was not a serious concern for the two, making a lover’s pact unnecessary.


A resulting re-examination of files about the death of the Crown Prince revealed major discrepancies between the claimed manner of the deaths and the factual evidence. At one point it was claimed that six shots were fired from the weapon, which did not belong to Rudolf. The initial report stated that only one shot was fired, instantly killing the Crown Prince, which raises the question of how the remaining five bullets were fired. This information suggests that Rudolf had engaged in a violent struggle before his death. However, an examination of the papal nuncio issued to allow Rudolf’s Christian burial asserts that only one shot was fired.


However, this theory has one major problem. By ruling Rudolf’s death a suicide, the Imperial Family was required to petition the Pope for permission to bury Rudolf in the family crypt. Critics of the conspiracy theory claim that the Imperial Family would have seized on any shred of evidence that might have indicated Rudolf did not kill himself in order to avoid the scandal of petitioning the Pope.


Suicide

Final letter of the Crown Prince, on display at the Mayerling museum. Click for the German text and English translation.

Apart from the straightforward lover’s pact proposed in the official report, a lover’s quarrel has also been postulated. It has been said that Vetsera was murdered by Crown Prince Rudolf, who then killed himself; that they both committed suicide; that they killed or murdered one another, and that she may have been pregnant at the time of her death. One variant states that Mary died during a botched abortion and the grief-stricken Rudolf killed himself. Image File history File linksMetadata Download high-resolution version (596x860, 245 KB) This photo shows Princess Stéphanie of Belgium, the widow of Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria and not his lover, Baroness Mary Vetsera. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Download high-resolution version (596x860, 245 KB) This photo shows Princess Stéphanie of Belgium, the widow of Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria and not his lover, Baroness Mary Vetsera. ...


Examination of the bodies indicated that Mary had likely died several hours before Rudolf, implying that he had killed her (or she had killed herself) and sat next to the body until he finally shot himself.


Rudolf's final letter to Princess Stephanie also supports the suicide hypothesis. In it, Rudolf bids farewell to her and his friends, saying that only death can save his good name. This letter raises at least as many questions as answers, since Rudolf does not give a reason why he must kill himself, nor is there any mention of Mary Vetsera.


Conclusions

Given the age of the case, the delicate nature of the Rudolf and Mary’s deaths (both politically and personally), conflicting initial reports and conflicting official versions, the mystery of the Mayerling Incident will likely never be solved. Much of the evidence was destroyed or concealed at the time, for fear of scandal, hampering later inquiries. All the major players in the Incident have died, most without publicly commenting on the tragedy.


A major obstacle to all of these theories, alternative and official, is the question of why any of these stories would be suppressed. The apparent suicide of the heir to the throne was at least as damaging as any other story, thus it would be illogical to conceal one painful or damaging truth with another.


After the incident

In December 1992, the cemetery at Heiligenkreuz was vandalized and Mary Vetsera's remains were stolen. Upon recovery they were examined to ensure that they were the correct remains. The findings again contradicted the official reports that she had been shot; her skull showed no evidence of bullet wounds or shrapnel. Instead, the evidence indicated that she had been beaten to death. However, given the circumstances of the examination, there is room for doubt as to whether it really was Mary Vetsera's body which had been recovered.


Political ramifications

Rudolf's death brought ruin to his parents' marriage, uncertainty over the imperial succession, and ultimately contributed to the end of the ancient house of Habsburg in 1918. The tragic and mysterious death of Archduke Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria and Hungary, immediately caused a dynastic crisis. Since he was the only male heir to Franz Joseph, Rudolf’s uncle Archduke Karl Ludwig, became heir-presumptive, a role inherited after his death in 1896 by his son Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and then, after the latter's assassination, by Karl Ludwig's grandson Archduke Karl, who would ultimately succeed his grand-uncle as Emperor in 1916. The removal of the liberal, but unstable, Rudolf made Franz Joseph's conservative policies easier to pursue. Archduke Karl Ludwig of Austria (30 July 1833 – 19 May 1896) was the father of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, whose shooting occasioned the start of World War I. He was born at Schönbrunn in Vienna, the son of Archduke Franz Karl of Austria (1802-1878) and his wife... Year 1896 (MDCCCXCVI) was a leap year starting on Wednesday (link will display calendar). ... This article or section does not cite any references or sources. ... Karl I of Austria, Károly IV. of Hungary, Karel III of Bohemia Karl I (August 17, 1887 – April 1, 1922), Karl Franz Josef Ludwig Hubert Georg Maria von Habsburg-Lothringen (Hungarian: Károly IV (Károly Ferenc József)), was (among other titles) the last Emperor of Austria, the... 1916 (MCMXVI) was a leap year starting on Saturday (link will display the full calendar). ...


Gallery

In the media

The Mayerling affair has been dramatized in:

Mayerling is a 1936 French historical film drama directed by Anatole Litvak and produced by Seymour Nebenzal from a screenplay by Marcel Achard, Joseph Kessel and Irma von Cube, based on the novel Idols End by Claude Anet. ... Anatole Litvak (May 10, 1902 – December 15, 1974) was a Ukrainian-born international filmmaker who wrote, directed, and produced films in a variety of countries and languages. ... Max Ophüls (May 6, 1902 – March 25, 1957) was a German-born Jewish film director. ... Marinka is a romantic musical by composer Emmerich Kalman with book by George Marion, Jr. ... Emmerich Kálmán (October 24, 1882 - October 30, 1953), also known as Imre Kálmán, was a Hungarian composer of operettas. ... Jean Delannoy (born January 12, 1908 in Noisy-le-Sec, Île-de-France) is a French, actor, film editor, screenwriter and film director. ... Mayerling is the title of an episode of the American television series Producers Showcase made for NBC, which was aired in 24 February 1957 and released theatrically as a film in Europe. ... Audrey Hepburn (May 4, 1929 – January 20, 1993) was an Academy Award-winning Anglo-Dutch actress of film and theatre, Broadway stage performer, ballerina, fashion model, and humanitarian. ... Mel Ferrer (born August 25, 1917 in Elberon, New Jersey) is an American actor, film director and film producer. ... Mayerling is a romantic tragedy based on the true-life affair of the Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria (Omar Sharif) and his mistress, the Baroness Maria Vetsera (Catherine Deneuve), and their untimely demise at Mayerling, the Austrian Imperial familys hunting lodge. ... Terence Young in the 1960s Stewart Terence Herbert Young (June 20, 1915 – September 7, 1994) was a British film director, born in Shanghai, China, was public-school educated, and read Oriental History at St Catharines College in the University of Cambridge (like the fictional character James Bond - see below). ... For the Pakistani actor of the same name, see Umer Sharif. ... Catherine Deneuve (French IPA: ), (October 22, 1943, in Paris, France), is an Academy Award-nominated French actress. ... James Neville Mason (May 15, 1909 – July 27, 1984) was a three-time Academy Award nominated English actor who attained stardom in both British and American films. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... Fall Of Eagles is a British television drama made by the BBC in 1974. ... Sir Kenneth MacMillan (1929 - 1992) was a noted British ballet dancer and choreographer. ... Steven Millhauser (born 3 August 1943 in New York City) is perhaps one of modern American fictions most elusive characters. ... The Illusionist is an Academy Award-nominated 2006 period drama written and directed by Neil Burger and starring Edward Norton, Jessica Biel, and Paul Giamatti. ... Neil Burger is a Connecticut-born film director who has filmed the pseudo-documentary, Interview with the Assassin (2002), and the period drama, The Illusionist (2006). ... Pia Douwes as Elisabeth and Viktor Gernot as Franz Josef in the original 1992 Vienna production Kata Janza as Elisabeth and Szilveszter P. Szabo as Death in Budapest 2002 Stanley Burleson as Death and Pia Douwes as Elisabeth in Scheveningen 1999 Elisabeth is a German-language musical commissioned by the... Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ... Sylvester Levay is a Hungarian composer. ... Frank Wildhorn is an American composer. ...

See also

  • Ludwig II of Bavaria (1845–1886), whose death, allegedly by drowning, remains an unsolved mystery.

Ludwig II, King of Bavaria, Ludwig Friedrich Wilhelm (August 25, 1845 – June 13, 1886) was king of Bavaria from 1864 until shortly before his death. ...

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.
  • Judtmann, Fritz. Mayerling: The Facts Behind the Legend. London: Harrap, 1971.
  • Lonyay, Károly. Rudolph: The Tragedy of Mayerling. New York: Scribner, 1949.
  • Markus, Georg. Crime at Mayerling: The Life and Death of Mary Vetsera: with New Expert Opinions Following the Desecration of Her Grave. Riverside, Calif.: Ariadne, 1995.
  • Wolfson, Victor. The Mayerling Murder. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1969.

External links

  • Mayerling tragedy
  • Mayerling mystery

 
 

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