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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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Translator’s Note


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When the Holy Roman Empire ended in 1806, the Habsburg ruler Francis I (r. 1804–35) declared himself “Emperor of Austria,” a title which became hereditary among his successors (Magocsi 73). Between 1867 and 1914, the Austro-Hungarian Empire included Cis-Leithania and Trans-Leithania: the three kingdoms Bohemia, Dalmatia, and Galicia-Lodomeria; two archduchies: Lower Austria and Upper Austria; six duchies: Bukovina, Carinthia, Carniola, Salzburg, Silesia, Styria; two margraviates: Istria, Moravia; three counties: Gorizia-Gradisca, Tyrol, Vorarlberg; and one town: Trieste. Austria was joined with Hungary in the Dual Monarchy after the Compromise of 1867, and the Austrian Emperor was crowned King of Hungary. Both states had common ministries of foreign affairs, war, and finance, but separate parliaments in Vienna and Budapest (80). The Habsburg Emperor Franz Joseph ruled in conservative fashion over Austria-Hungary from 1848 to 1916. His death saved him from witnessing the collapse of his Empire at the end of World War I, which might have been averted if he had considered the political ideas of his son.

Crown Prince Rudolf (1858–1889) might have been able to establish a United Europe under Habsburg rule, had his life not been cut short by his premature death in Mayerling. As a representative of liberalism and democracy, who espoused the rights of the minorities in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and opposed nationalism and anti-Semitism, he stood in opposition to the policies of his father and Franz Joseph’s counselors. Rudolf would have forged alliances with France, England, and Russia rather...

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