A TRAGIC NARRATIVE
[From a Vienna Correspondent ov the 'Argus.']
Now that the mists which enshrouded the Meierling tragedy are perceptibly evaporating, a glimpse behind the scenes, though belated, may not be deemed inopportune. The national catastrophe, fulling a thunderbolt over tho Austro - lluugarian Empire, stupefied the sensibilities of Emperor Francis Joseph's loyal and loving subjects, and, beside themaehes with dismay, they accepted the moat fallacious rumors. What I know of this event is derived from an authentic source, and my story may be safely accepted as accurate, however contradictory it may seem when compared with the versions already made public. My position in Vienna places me in a situation to catch an in«ide glimpse of court life and society, and being, in the present case, desirous of becoming acquainted with the particulars of His Imperial Highness's death, I set about interviewing those of my exalted acquaintances who were likely to know the real truth of this matter. The result of my inquiries I deem It advisable to give in the form of interviews, and the words I put into the mouths of my Informants are but their own revelationsGerman revelations in an English dress, About a month ago informant No. 1 said : "You ask me to give you my candid opinion. My dear sir, lam not Bratfisch (the well-known coachman of the Crown Prince). I waß not tit Meierling, and he was."
"I cannot see him. He is ill, this coachman."
" Or feigns to be so to escape being interviewed by the journalists. At firßt he was kept a prisoner, ai were also tho other servants of the Meierling staff. Ho was in constant attendance on the Crown Prince. You will not get him to reveal the secret; so much is sure. The Crown Prince did not go to Meierling to lay hands upon himself. He went to meet the young lady for whom he sacrificed his life—Baroness Vecera. Here is her photograph. Is she not lovely? When she was in England last year she went through a London seasor. She was the acknowledged belle of every ball and party. She was accompanied by her mother. She met the Crown Prince there. He followed her about everywhere. That was at the time of Queen Victoria's jubilee. He was on repeated occasions seen by members of the Austrian aristocracy walking out with her and her mother of an afternoon. He was infatuated by hor'charms. He had the chacharacter of being a roue,. Did ever roue die for the love of a woman—of a girl—a beautiful girl of seventeen ? She is of Greek origin, you know. Her mother is a Baltazzi by birth—a name well known in sporting circles." " You knew her personally ?" " I did ; I might say intimately.'' " When did you see her last ?'' " A few nights before the dreadful affair happened. It was at a party. She wore tho dress she has on in this picture, with the same brilliants in her hair. I complimented her on her toilette, and she said archly, with her captivating smile : ' I was photographed in this dress, with these bril Hants in my bair, by Turk, this morning.' Strange to say," continued my informant, " that Turk, on my going after her death to order her portrait," said: 'The Baroness must have known what was going to happen, for she said to me: " Take care to take my likeness well, Herr Turk. I can tell you you will make an excellent business in sailing many copies of it" And to think this beautiful girl should now be lying in die churchyard of Heiligen Blut. She was too ambitious. She aspired to a throne." "Then there is some truth in the story of the Crown Prince having appealed to his father to consent to a separation, and—and "
At this informant number one shrugged his shoulders, and then bowed his head in a way not to be mistaken. "And what?" said he. " And that he had petitioned the Pops for a dissolution ?" Informant number two had more to tell, and what he did not tell was supplied by informants numbora three and four. Eschewing the minor details, of which several accounts more or less authentic have appeared in the British Press, relative to the Prince's last drive out to Meierling, pear Badeu, on the morning of January 29, I restrict myself to the narration of the most prominent features of tho drama. Suffice it furthermore to say that all who were brought into personal con- ' tact with the late Crown Prince Rudolph, and who may be said to have had ample , opportunities of studying his character, are unanimous in the opinion that he was a man of an extremely nervous disposition. That ho had suffered periodically from headaches for years, and that, when out of temper, he, like ordinary mortals, was capable of saying and doing things which, to say the least, were violent, are indisputable facts. It is true that he indulged his appetites to the full, He and his coachman Bratfisch often caroused together. One of his excesses was to drink a bottle of Bordeaux followed by ono of champagne a* an early breakfast. His nervous temperament is attributed by some men to his having studied excessively in his youth; by others to his having been from infancy constitutionally weak. That hj« was indefatigable with his books as a boy, and that his arduous routine of study had no salutary effect upon his brain there can be no doubt. Some folks say that he was not the same man from the time he fell from his horse about a year ago. He was a man of strong likes and dislikes, fle would have his own way. He was not happy with the sweetest tempered of women —his wife, Crown Princess Stephanie. He was in the strictest sense of the word blast, Tho constancy of woman palled upon his mind. He was devotedly attached to his child, Archduchess Elizabeth, whom he loved to call his "little Lizzy." Ho was a man essentially selfish, and although he was possessed of many engaging and redeeming qualities, conspicuous amongst which was his kindness to the poor, hla peculiar position rather than any other trait in his character, made him the idol of the multitude. The real truth is very sad. On the morning of the 20th January Prince Rudolph drove out to his shooting box at Meierling to attend one of his famous orgies, concerning which the least 'aid the better. Several members of the Vienna demi-monde were in the habit of figuring at these reunions, and this was not by many the first revelry of the kind held at Meierling, for the simple reason that Meierling, in its rural isolation, is out of earshot of the Kaiserstadt. When the Crown Princo reached his destination his convivial friends were already assembled. The Crown Prince dismissed his coachman, Bratfisch, who at once came baok to town. As Bratfisch was driving up the Kohlmarkt, one of the busiest thoroughfares of Vienna, lined with the smartest shops, he saw the young Baroness Vecera standing at the door of a shop, waiting for a friend who was within making some pnrchases. Bratfisch, driving along close to the pavement, bowed. That fatal how the young lady returned. " Good morning, Bratfisch," said she; from where do you come?" "I come from Meierling. There's rare fan going on there to-day," " Drive me there," said the Barones? suddenly. The man hesitated. " You must. I command." The next moment this girl of seventeen summers was seated in the carriage, the horses' heads were turned, and out to Meierling they drove, leaving her friend still in the shop. On reaching Meierling the young lady who had the reputation of being headstrong, flighty, and passionate, asked to see the Prince. She would take no refusal, and forced her way into the presence of the party seated at table. The Prince, alarmed and annoyed at this untoward intrusion, entreated the Baroness to return home. " No." said she defiantly: " now that I am here I shall stay." She stayed. There was nothing for it but to offer her a seat at the table. Her sooial position entitled her to that to the right of her host, which she then occupied. The feast was at its height, the company became more drunk than sober, when the Prince made some flattering observation to one of the women present. The remark roused the Baroness's jealousy. Her blood was up. She expressed her indignation in no complimentary terms. Her host's reply exasperated her beyond measure. In her madneßS and intoxication she seized a long sharp-pointed knife from the table, and plunged it into the Prince's
stomach. The confusion into which tho company was thrown was indescribable. The Prince, with tho yoll of a wild beast, sprang to his feet and threw the girl on to the floor. He caught hold of her by tho throat and strangled her. Before anyone could interfere she was dead. The Prince continued to shriek with pain. His agonising cries rang through the air, and were hoard by the inmates of the adjacent cottages. His friends sent off to the neighboring town of Baden for medical aid. They carried him into his bed-chamber, but scarcely had they placed him on his bed than he drew a revolver, which he was in tho habit of carrying, and discharging the contents into his head at his right temple, expired instantaneously. A council was held as to the manner in which the awful intelligence should be conveyed to tho Emperor. Tho spectators of the terrible scene were abjured to silence. It was deemed expedient to bury the body of the Baroness without delay, and before dawn the remains had been borne to tho neighboring village of Heiligen Blut, where they were interred in the churchyard The details of what followed—of how the body of the Crown Prince was brought to Vienna, etc.—is universally known. The official report of the Prince having died by suicide on the morning of the 30th January is not, therefore, founded on fact. The consternation of the witnesses was so great that many hours elapsed after all was over before they could come to any decision as to who was to bear tho awful tidings to Vienna, and as to how they should be revealed at Court. The Emperor, when he had learned the worst, took every precaution to keep the details of the tragedy secret. The guests and servants at Meierling at the time were ordered, on the pain of incurring His Majesty's displeasure, to observe strict silence. The Bhooting-box at Meierling is not, according to the reports whioh appeared in several foreign newspapers, to be demolished, but will fall to the church, and bo used for some religious or philanthropic purpose. It will interest your readers to know that the house is under the strictest gendarme surveillance, and that no one is allowed to enter the place. The peasants round about, fearful of condign punishment, cannot be got to utter a word in any way connected with the tragedy for love or money. At Heiligen Blut secret emissaries of the police are in charge of Baroness Vecera'a grave, and, although they are not stationed in the churchyard, they are in ambush nevertheless, To the surprise of the Vienna public, the coachman Bratfisch attended the Piaker ball—a ball given by Vienna cab-drivers annually on Ash YVcdnesday—where he seemed to enjoy himself amazingly. In order to prevent any unguarded word from escaping him in the excitement of the evening, he was, I am told, kept under the eye of one of the many detectives who frequent, aB a rule, all places of amusement in this capital. Crown Princess Stephanie, or, as she is now officially styled, the widowed Crown Princess Archduchess Stephanie, is deserving of universal sympathy. She has the reputation of being the " soul of goodness." It Is not for us to ask to what extent her husband's infidelity was known to her. Let us deal with facts. It is a fact that tho Castle of Saxenburg (which is to continue as heretofore to be her country seat) is being entirely refurnished, and it is equally true that tho suite of apartments she is to call her own in the Vienna Hofburg are also being furnished afresh. The accumulation of treasures which decorated the late Crown Prince's apartments have either been presented as souvenirs to his personal friends, attendants, or servants, or have gone to augment the public collections of Vienna and other Austrian and other Hungarian towns. The widowed Crown Princess and her little daughter, in company with her two sisters (the wife of Duke Philip of Coburg and Princess Clementine of Belgium), are now staying at the Emperor'a Adriatic castlo, "Miramar." This castle, built by the Emperor's brother (the ill-fated Archduke Maximilian, Emperor of Mexico), is tho most imposing Imperial seat in the Empire. Strange as it may seem, it is nevertheless true, that on the death by Buicide of _ the Crown Priuce becoming known very little mention was made of his mother, Empress Elizabeth, in the first hour of her bereavement. "Tho Emperor!" "Tho good Emperor !" " The poor Emperor !" escaped everybody's lips. Tho Empress, owing to the retired life she leads, to her utter indifference to popularity, to her pronounced detestation for the restraints of court etiquette, and for the observances of the traditional Spanish ceremonies of the Hapsburghs, has sunk into little more than a private individual, whose comings and goings are heralded through the medium of the Press simply because she iB tho rightful wearer of an imperial crown. The Empress's frequent and long absences from Austria in search of health adds not a little to the much she has forfeited of public esteem.
The widowed Crown Princess Stephanie, it was commonly supposed, would, after the death of her husband, have returned with her parents, the King and Queen of the Belgians to her old home. lam told that her reason for settling iu Austria is to please the Emperor, who was always very fond of his geutle and dutiful daughter-in-law, a fondness which the Archduchess fully reciprocates. I have often seen them together, »nd his fatherly Bmile and affectionate manner did not escape notice. Baroness Vecera, the mother of the illfated young lady, has left Vienna with her eldest daughter, who is known for her piety, and who, it is rumored, intends shortly to take the veil. It is stated that the Emperor bestowed on the mother the sum of 800,000 florins aa hush money, and on condition that she remains exiled from the country. Whether this last rumor be true or false is a matter of considerable doubt. Baroness Vecera on leaving Vienna is said to have gone to Venice, where, on being recognised on the Piazza San Marco, she was hooted by the crowd.
Permanent link to this item
Evening Star, Evening Star, Issue 7904, 11 May 1889, Supplement
Evening Star Evening Star, Issue 7904, 11 May 1889, Supplement
Using This Item
Allied Press Ltd is the copyright owner for the Evening Star. You can reproduce in-copyright material from this newspaper for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons New Zealand BY-NC-SA licence. This newspaper is not available for commercial use without the consent of Allied Press Ltd. For advice on reproduction of out-of-copyright material from this newspaper, please refer to the Copyright guide.