Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria (Rudolf Franz Karl Joseph; 21 August 1858 – 30 January 1889), was the only son and third child of Emperor Franz Joseph I and Elisabeth of Bavaria. He was heir apparent to the Imperial throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire from birth.
Beethoven dedicated 14 compositions to Rudolph, including the Archduke Trio, the Hammerklavier Sonata, the Emperor Concerto and the Missa Solemnis. Piano Sonata No. 26 - Les Adieux ("The Farewells") was gifted to Rudolf just before his flight from Vienna with the Royal family on the occasion of the 1809 invasion by Napoleon.
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- Affairs and Suicide
- Impact of Rudolf's Death
- Film and Theatre
- Further Reading
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Archduke Rudolf Franz Karl Joseph (later Crown Prince) was born on 21 August 1858 in 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 manager of the Imperial Natural History Museum), Rudolf became very interested in natural sciences, starting a mineral collection at a very early age. (After his death, large portions of his mineral collection came into the possession of the University for Agriculture in Vienna.). Crown Prince Rudolf was raised together with his older sister Gisela by their paternal grandmother Archduchess Sophie. His parents' oldest child, a daughter named Sophie, died at the age of two before Rudolf was born, while younger sister Marie-Valerie was born ten years after Rudolf. Hence, Gisela and Rudolf grew up together and were very close. At the age of six, he was separated from his sister as he began his education to become a fut...
In Vienna, on 10 May 1881, he married Princess Stéphanie of Belgium, a daughter of King Leopold II of the Belgians, in a state wedding at the Augustinian's Church in Vienna. Rudolf appeared to be genuinely in love, but his mother regarded her new daughter-in-law as a "clumsy oaf." 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.
In 1887, Rudolf bought Mayerling and transformed it into 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 the deaths were a result of Franz Joseph's demand that the couple end the relationship: the Crown Prince, as part of a suicide pact, first shot his mistress in the head and then himself. Rudolf was officially declared to have been in a state of "mental unbalance" in order to enable 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. After the deaths, 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.
Following Rudolf's death, the marriage of his parents collapsed completely, with his mother spending much of her time abroad up until her own murder nine years later. Next in the line of succession after Rudolf to the Austrian, Bohemian, and Hungarian thrones was Archduke Karl Ludwig, Franz Joseph's younger brother. Karl Ludwig renounced his succession rights a few days after Rudolf’s death, meaning his oldest son, Archduke Franz Ferdinand became heir presumptive. Franz Ferdinand's assassination in 1914 sparked a chain of events that led directly to World War I.Crown Prince Rudolph, TV film directed by Robert Dornhelm (2006) in two parts. Historical adviser: Brigitte Hamann. Here, the love story and the conflict between father and son are embedded in the...Frank Wildhorn's new musical Rudolfcenters around Crown Prince Rudolf. It premiered at the Operetta Theatre in Budapest in 2006 and ran for three years. The Vienna production opened 26 February 200...In The Illusionist (2006), a central character is the fictitious "Crown Prince Leopold," son of the Emperor Francis Joseph of Austria. In the film, "Leopold" commits suicide after a failing in a pl...Kenneth MacMillan's 1978 ballet, MayerlingRudolf, Crown Prince of Austria. Majestät, ich warne Sie... Geheime und private Schriften. Edited by Brigitte Hamann. Wien: Amalthea, 1979, ISBN 3-85002-110-6 (reprinted München: Piper, 1998, ISBN...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.Hamann, Brigitte. Kronprinz Rudolf: Ein Leben. Wien: Amalthea, 2005, ISBN 3-85002-540-3.