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December 13, 2006

Franz Joseph at Schloss Anif in the 1800s

Whilst I was looking for pictures of Schloss Anif on Flickr I stumbled upon this gem uploaded by me_maya.


The person who uploaded it comments that:

this photo hung in the reception foyer of the hotel. the receptionist told me that it is kaiser franz joseph indeed, photographed during one of his visits to anif castle. so the boy must be crownprince rudolf. the image feels like ghost-photography. if it hadn't been for the photographer's retouching, the boys outline would blur with the snow. his pale face, white dress, light hair might as well vanish before the landscape. whilst his father, holding him by the wrist like a prisoner, not by the hand, looks like some strange black crow. regardless of his sensitivity rudolf was sent to a military academy. in his twenties he became a morphinist and is believed to have taken his own life in the winter of 1889.

If it is them, judging by Crown Prince Rudolf's appearance in the photo, it looks to be from around the 1860s, and you can just about make out the Schloss Anif castle in the background. Rudolf did indeed end his own life in 1889. He had become an increasingly isolated figure towards the end of his life, issuing strident manifestos about Austrian nationalism under an assumed name, and he died in an apparent suicide pact with a 17 year old lover, Baroness Marie Vetsera, some 14 years his junior.

The historian in me occassionally re-surfaces, and I hate being in a place and not understanding the historical context, so I've been reading "The Austrians - A Thousand-Year Odyssey" by Gordon Brook-Shepherd. I can't say that I've entirely got on with it - it seems to feature a vein of religious judgement on some people and events which I find out of place in a work of academic scholarship, but it is at least providing an overview of events in Central Europe which have never really been covered by any of the areas I have previously studied.

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