Rudolf (1858—1889)


Son of Franz Joseph, Crown Prince of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy

Rudolf inherited the sensitive personality of her mother, Elizabeth, Empress of Austria, Queen of Hungary. He kept revolting against his father and the policies he represented throughout his life. For a certain time he would write articles critical of the policies of the Emperor, that is his father, under a pseudonym. His marriage with Princess Stephanie of Belgium was unsuccessful. The Crown Prince led a licentious life and had several lovers. He contracted a venereal disease which was transmitted to his wife who became sterile as a result. Under this pretext, he tried to get papal authorisation for the dissolution of his marriage but his father disagreed.

The Crown Prince became a morphine addict and pondered suicide several times. He eventually killed himself on January 30, 1889. He committed suicide jointly with his lover, Maria Vetsera who was only 17. His deed was interpreted by many as a gesture of revolt against his father. Their conflict was not just one between two men but also a clash of two views of the world. Rudolf can be considered the “Habsburg Hamlet” who could have become a great king, as the Hungarians liking him and having high hopes of him used to say.

„I know that I will die young.”
Brigitte Hamann: Rudolf, Kronprinz und Rebell

(The quotation is displayed in Room VII)


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