On 30 January 1889, the bodies of Archduke Rudolf and his mistress, Baroness Mary Vetsera, were discovered in the royal hunting lodge at Mayerling.
The official verdict is that the star-crossed lovers died in a suicide pact after Rudolf’s father, Franz Joseph I of Austria, demanded that he end the relationship. However, there are theories that Rudolf was murdered (Mary’s body was smuggled out of Mayerling in the middle of the night and Rudolf was described as being ‘mentally unbalanced’) because of his sympathies for Hungarian independence, and that certain powers that be wanted to prevent his accession to the throne.
As you can see from this newspaper report of the tragedy, the press initially described it as ‘a stroke of apoplexy’.
The effect of the deaths was profound and far-reaching. In addition to the collapse of his parents’ marriage (amazingly, his mother, Elizabeth of Austria, was murdered nine years later), Rudolf’s brother, Karl, renounced his claim to the throne just a few days after the tragedy. The next person in the succession queue was Archduke Franz Ferdinand, whose assassination led to the outbreak of World War One.
There are 100s of interesring stories in the Archive about this ill-fated royal family – just do a search on their names to find these stories.
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