Anonymous asked: If you think the Habsburgs are nuts, just look up how Peter the Great had an obsession with dwarves. Also he was crazy into surgery. If he could get away with it he'd operate on anyone. No, seriously. Or the Potsdam Giants of Frederick I.
Oh man, Russian royalty is like so far out there. So alien to me. I never read enough about it, which sucks because they were obvs so crazy and hilarious. But like I have no grasp of Russian culture so I’d really have to start from the ground up. Like, I’d have to read a good survey book, which may very well happen one day. I have no doubt they’re awesome.
The thing is I’m really obsessed with the 19th c Hapsburg-Lorraine line and the Bavarian royals and how that converged to create the Mayerling affair which literally set into effect a chain of events which shaped all of 20th century history as we know - because Crown Prince Rudolf died, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was in line for Emperor. Because he was next in line for Emperor, his death started WWI. And the WWI lead to both the Bolshevik revolution and WWII and so the question becomes why did Rudolph kill himself and his mistress in a remote hunting cabin in 1889? There was no major pressure on him to end the affair or new stressors in his life at the time. Was it the history of mental illness in his family on the Bavarian side, as evidenced by his mother’s OCD and documented anorexia nervosa and her cousin’s eccentricities that caused the coup in Bavaria years earlier? Or was it not a suicide at all? Or were Ludwig II’s issues exaggerated by his enemies, did the Mayerling Affair, cause Elisabeth’s mental illness, in which are we still left with no explanation for Rudolph’s actions? So could it have been murder? Frankly, I think it’s more likely murder than suicide, in which case, omfg, WHO?! Because it wasn’t the Jews, which is what most people were saying at the time.
This literally keeps me up at night, Anon, I shit you not. WTF happened to Rudolf? It drives me crazy because we’ll never ever know, especially because they were Catholic and tried to cover up the suicide at first and no one really paid a ton of attention to the forensic evidence? There were so many competeing theories from those close to the affair and so few witnesses to the actual scene and so many people stood to gain from a destablized Austrian Empire. I just can’t help but find it very suspect and it bothers me a lot that I’ll never, ever, ever know.
And even if it was really Rudolf’s murder-suicide - this one man’s obsessive, destructive love turned the entire globe upside down, probably permanently.
I AM SO FUCKING DONE WITH THE HAPSBURGS.
The take in Frederic Morton’s A Nervous Splendor is that Rudolf was driven to a state of hopeless despair by his realization that he had no real power to modernize the Empire and prevent the inevitable oncoming political and military disasters that came from the Empire spreading itself thin and refusing reform.
Now, this is a book written 33 years ago, so I’m not sure what more recent scholarship has to say, but the book as a whole stresses that Rupert’s suicide came in the context of a city which had a higher suicide rate than anywhere else in Europe. The moral of this book, in simple terms, is that VIENNA WAS FUCKED UP. It was really a civilization on the edge of total collapse, in part because everyone’s collective response to that threat of disintegration was, I shit you not, to waltz as much as humanly possible and pretend that Nothing Was Wrong.
Anyway, in that context Morton’s reading of Rupert’s life makes a dramatic kind of sense, although it wouldn’t surprise me if this particular reading is informed by the overall drama of the Viennese narrative.
Gotta love dying empires.