Rudolf was raised together with his older sister Gisela and the two were very close. At the age of six, Rudolf was separated from his sister as he began his education to become a future Emperor. This did not change their relationship and Gisela remained close to him until she left Vienna upon her marriage to Prince Leopold of Bavaria.
In contrast with his deeply conservative father, Rudolf held distinctively liberal views, that were closer to those of his mother. Nevertheless his relationship with her was at times strained.
In 1887, Rudolf bought Mayerlinghunting lodge. In late 1888, the 30-year-old crown prince met the 17-year-old Baroness Marie Vetsera, known by the more fashionable Anglophile name Mary and began an affair with her. According to official reports their deaths were a result of Franz Joseph's demand that the couple end the relationship: the Crown Prince, as part of a suicide pact, first shot his mistress in the head and then himself. Rudolf was officially declared to have been in a state of "mental unbalance" in order to enable Christian burial in the Imperial Crypt (Kapuzinergruft) of the Capuchin Church in Vienna. Mary's body was smuggled out of Mayerling in the middle of the night and secretly buried in the village cemetery at Heiligenkreuz. After the deaths, the Emperor had Mayerling converted into a penitential convent of Carmelite nuns. Today prayers are still said daily by the nuns for the repose of Rudolf's soul.
The young crown prince Rudolf during his adolescence
Official engagement photo of Crown Prince Rudolf and Princess Stéphanie of Belgium (1881)
Mayerling lodge as it appeared when the crown prince killed himself there (before 1889)
Crown Prince Rudolf placed in a bed for private viewing by his family at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna. His head had to be bandaged in order to cover gunshot wounds. When he later lay-in-state, his skull was reconstructed using wax so that his appearance appeared normal.
Crown Prince Rudolf (right) lies entombed next to his parents graves in the Imperial Crypt in Vienna.
Statue in memory of the Crown Prince Rudolf in the City Park of Budapest
Impact of Rudolf's death
Rudolf's death plunged his mother into despair. She wore black or pearl grey, the colours of mourning, for the rest of her life and spent more and more time away from the imperial court in Vienna. Empress Elisabeth was murdered while abroad in Geneva in Switzerland in 1898 by Italian anarchist, Luigi Lucheni.
Next in the line of succession after Rudolf to the Austrian, Bohemian, Croatian and Hungarian thrones was Archduke Karl Ludwig, Franz Joseph's younger brother. Karl Ludwig renounced his succession rights a few days after Rudolf’s death, meaning his oldest son, Archduke Franz Ferdinand became heir presumptive. Franz Ferdinand's assassination in 1914 sparked a chain of events that caused instability within Austria-Hungary and the collapse of the dynasty at the end of World War I in November 1918. Rudolf's father, Emperor Franz Joseph died in November 1916. He was succeeded by his grandnephew, Emperor Karl I of Austria, who would reign until the overthrow of the monarchy on November 11, 1918.
Japanese Takarazuka Revue's "Utakata no Koi"/"Ephemeral Love" (based on Mayerling) revolves around Rudolph and Marie Vetsera.
Requiem for a Crown Prince, fourth episode of the British documentary/drama series Fall of Eagles (1974), about the collapse of the Romanov, Habsburg and Hohenzollern dynasties. Directed by James Furman and written by David Turner, the 60-minute episode tracks in detail the events of Wednesday, 30 January 1889, at Mayerling as well as the following few days - The discovery of the dead bodies, the breaking of news to Rudolf's family, the desperate attempts to cover up, what really happened - even to the Emperor and Empress - and the secret smuggling of Mary Vetsera's body away from Mayerling before scandal can erupt.
Miklós Jancsó's 1975 film Vizi Privati, Publiche Virtù (Private Vices, Public Virtues) is a daring reinterpretation of the Mayerling incident, in which the lovers and their friends are murdered by imperial authorities for plotting the Emperor's overthrow and for gross immorality and Mary Vetsera was portrayed as a hermaphrodite, which has no basis in history. The film was denounced by some critics as gratuitously graphic, but the director's point is, how the decay and hypocrisy of the empire was reflected in the prince's desperately aberrant behavior.
Rudolf also appears as a character in the musical Elisabeth (1992) and in Lillie, Granada TV's dramatisation of the life of Victorian society beauty, Lillie Langtry.
Japanese manga by Higuri You named "Tenshi no Hitsugi" (Angel's Coffin) (2000). Based on of his life and his mistress Mary Vetsera.
In The Illusionist (2006), the primary antagonist is the "Crown Prince Leopold" (Rufus Sewell), the son of the Emperor Francis Joseph of Austria. In the film, Leopold's "progressive opinions" mask an intense hatred for his father and the Hapsburg tradition of constitutional monarchy, which Leopold regards as letting the Empire be "governed by mongrels." He plans to stage a coup d'etat, overthrow his father, dissolve Parliament, and govern by decree. When his fiancee, Duchess Sophie von Teschen, denounces his plans and announces that she is leaving him for another man, Leopold (apparently) murders her in a jealous rage. In the film's climax, the Chief Inspector of the Vienna police tells the Emperor and the General Staff of Leopold's treasonous plot. As the Austro-Hungarian Army storms the Mayerling lodge, the Crown Prince shoots himself with a revolver.
The Crown Prince, film directed by Robert Dornhelm (2006) in two parts. Historical adviser: Brigitte Hamann. Here, the love story and the conflict between father and son are embedded in the general political situation of the time in Central Europe.
Frank Wildhorn's new musical Rudolf centers around Crown Prince Rudolf. It premiered at the Operetta Theatre in Budapest in 2006 and ran for three years. The Vienna production opened 26 February 2009 at the Raimund Theatre.
The play Rudolf (2011) by David Logan dramatises the last few weeks of the life of Crown Prince Rudolf and features his relationship with his parents Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elisabeth as well as his wife Crown Princess Stephanie, his cousins Marie Larisch and Archduke Johan Salvator and his two mistresses Mary Vetsera and Mitzi Caspar.