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Rudolf. Crown Prince and Rebel

Translation of the New and Revised Edition, «Kronprinz Rudolf. Ein Leben» (Amalthea, 2005)

Brigitte Hamann

Brigitte Hamann portrays Rudolf von Habsburg, Crown Prince of Austria, as a liberal intellectual who stood in opposition to his father Emperor Franz Josef and the imperial establishment. Against the prevailing currents of his time, Rudolf wanted to modernize the Habsburg Empire by abolishing the privileges of the aristocracy. He vehemently opposed nationalism and anti-Semitism and fought for liberalism and democracy and the rights of the minorities within the multinational Empire. His political goal was a United Europe of liberal states. For a long time, Crown Prince Rudolf was known mainly in connection with his suicide at Mayerling with Baroness Mary Vetsera. However, the Mayerling tragedy may be seen as the last consequence of living without any prospect of realizing his ideals.
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Chapter 5: Residence in Prague


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Full of enthusiasm for the Slavic cause and well prepared by his teachers Gindely and Jireček, the Crown Prince came to Prague in 1878. Here, he joined the Infantry Regiment Nr. 36 as Imperial-Royal Colonel. He lived in the Hradčany Castle, the seat of the Bohemian King, which was much neglected by comparison with the Royal Castle in Budapest. Since the devastation of Bohemia in the War of 1866, but especially since the Compromise with Hungary [Ausgleich of 1867] and the broken promise by Franz Joseph to have himself crowned King of Bohemia, the climate in Bohemia in regard to the Court and the government in Vienna had deteriorated a lot.

The geographer Alexander Helfert describes the situation in the capital of Bohemia on the occasion of Rudolf’s relocation there: “One may say without exaggeration that rarely in history, certainly not in the history of Austria, has an intelligent and energetic people—faithful and loyal until now—met with such incessant, injurious rejection as the Bohemians.”1 According to Helfert, the Czechs had an “undisguised discontent and resentment and rebelled against all things coming from Vienna or favored by Vienna.” He commented that one should take note of “the conspicuous demonstrations celebrating the memory of Jan Hus last summer.”

Not only the Czechs, but also the German-speaking politicians in Vienna, who were aiming for compromise, saw in the Crown Prince’s residence in Prague a belated hope for an understanding between Prague...

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