The Mayerling mystery concerning the tragic death of Crown Prince Rudolf and his mistress, Baroness Marie Vetsera, has remained unsolved to this day. On January 30, 1889, the couple were discovered dead at the royal hunting lodge in Mayerling...The most widely accepted theory is that there was a lover's pact: Rudolf shot Marie and then killed himself. Franz Joseph had wanted the lovers to separate but they could not bear life without each other. There is another theory that the couple were murdered and they were victims of a political conspiracy, cooked up by the French Prime Minister Clemenceau, who was conspiring to overthrow Franz Joseph and place the Germanophobe Rudolf on the throne. This way Austria could have loosened ties with Germany and signed an alliance with France. Rudolf refused to take part in the conspiracy and was killed to secure his silence. Certain facts point towards this theory. When Marie's remains were examined half a century later, an astonishing discovery was made. There was no sign of the use of firearms: instead, there was a large trauma on her head. Allegedly, Rudolf's body showed signs of a violent confrontation before death. The tragic deaths shocked the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and caused an immediate crisis of succession to the throne. The court did everything possible to cover up the scandalous incident (the official version was that Rudolf died of heart failure, with no mention of his lover), so it is likely the mystery will never be solved.It is important to note that the last Habsburg empress, Zita, supported the theory that Rudolf and Marie had been murdered. In 1982, she told the Viennese daily Kronen Zeitung that she believed the couple had been assassinated as part of a plot against the imperial family. Some might say this was merely a way of covering up the shame of a suicide in the ranks of the devoutly Catholic House of Austria, but Zita hardly had the reputation of being a liar. On the contrary, she was a woman of high character and I do not think her testimony can be lightly dismissed.
Liebe Stephanie! Du bist von meiner Gegenwart und Plage befreit; werde glücklich auf Deine Art. Sei gut für die arme Kleine, die das einzige ist, was von mir übrig bleibt. Allen Bekannten, besonders Bombelles, Spindler, Latour, Wowo, Gisela, Leopold, etc. etc. sage meine letzten Grüße. Ich gehe ruhig in den Tod, der allein meinen guten Namen retten kann. Sei herzlichst umarmt. Dein Dich liebender Rudolph.
Dear Stephanie, you are now rid of my presence and annoyance; be happy in your own way. Take care of the poor wee one, she is all that remains of me. To all acquaintances, especially Bombelles, Spindler, Latour, Wowo (possibly, a nickname for the Baroness Von Welden, Ruldolf's nanny), Gisela, Leopold, etc., etc., say my last greetings. I go quietly to my death, which alone can save my good name. I embrace you affectionately. Your loving Rudolph.
This farewell letter is invoked in support of the suicide theory. Note, however, that there is no explicit mention of suicide. The words are rather ambiguous. Was Rudolf, for instance, really planning to kill himself, or merely foreseeing he might be murdered? In any case, whatever the truth of the matter, the Mayerling tragedy is singularly disturbing, and one can only hope and pray that the victims may rest in peace.