The Mayerling Incident: scandal, suicide and the Bavarian kink

Mathew Lyons

Around noon on 30 January 1889 Austria’s official newspaper Wiener Zeitung in Vienna reported that 30-year-old Crown Prince Rudolf, heir to the fraying and fractious Austro-Hungarian Empire, husband of Princess Stéphanie of Belgium, had died that morning of a stroke. It was a lie.

The following day, the court issued a clarification: Rudolf had died of heart failure. That also was a lie.

It was true Rudolf had died around 7am on the 30th at the imperial hunting lodge at Mayerling, some 16 miles from Vienna. The first news of it had reached the court towards the end of the morning, with a report that he had been poisoned. Remarkably, that wasn’t true either.

The truth – almost certainly – is that Rudolf and his new 17-year-old mistress, Baroness Marie Vetsera (pictured) had died in a suicide pact. He shot her in the early hours of the morning. It seems…

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