Content warning: Suicide
This week, we take a little trip over to the Austro-Hungarian Emprire in the latter half of the 19th century to meet one of the more scandalous figures of his age – and a man whose death most likely put the world on the path toward World War I.
Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria grew up in an emotionally and physically abusive environment, tormented by the military official in charge of his education and ignored by his mother, whose affection he craved.
Bookish and forward-thinking, young Rudolf clashed often with his father, Emperor Franz Joseph, and struck out on his own as a Playboy Prince, nurturing a close friendship with Queen Victoria’s heir, Bertie, Prince of Wales. While forced into a loveless marriage, Rudolf didn’t slow his extracurriculars for even a minute; he would later contract, and share with his unsuspecting wife, gonorrhoea, and it’s thought that the Prince himself may have contracted syphilis as well.
These are all unseemly things, to be sure, but it is the murder-suicide that ended both Crown Prince Rudolf’s life, as well as his 17-year-old mistress’s, that shook up the line of succession, forged a tight alliance with Germany, and seems to have inevitably led to the beginning of hostilities in 1914.
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