Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Road to Mayerling: Life and Death of Crown Prince Rudolph of Austria by Richard Barkeley

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Personal Library
Read: October 7, 2012

This superbly factual account of the life and death of Austria's Prince Rudolph reads like a fast-paced thriller. The colorful and controversial Prince--the last and most talented of the Hapsburg line--was discovered dead on January 30, 1889, in the royal hunting lodge at Mayerling. Beside him, also dead, lay his mistress, the beautiful young Baroness Mary Vetsera. What happened that day remains a mystery that has evoked endless speculation and countless dramatic re-creations--none more engrossing and entertaining than Barkeley's vivid telling.

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Crown Prince Rudolph
Richard Barkeley's The Road to Mayerling offers a revealing glimpse into the Hapsburg court of the late 1800s. Chronicling the life and mysterious death of Crown Prince Rudolph, I  found the book well researched and detailed, but decidedly prejudicial in its glorification of the young royal and the causes for which he stood. 

A product of the times, The Road to Mayerling omits and/or downplays many of Rudolph's short-comings. Maybe it is just me, but I seriously doubt that his political and personal situations were as simple and one-sided as Berkeley portrays them here. While I loved the political analysis of the period and the extensive translation of Rudolph's personal correspondence, I am far from convinced by the author's conclusions.

The book is probably the most complete examination of Rudolph available to American readers, but having been published in 1958, I can guarantee it lags far behind the multitude of more recent German language publications. 

Worthwhile reading, but like so many things, The Road to Mayerling must be taken with a grain of salt. 

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"Out of the darkness which surrounds us... from the night of reaction, may we at last awake to the dawn of a better time in which our ideals will be victorious. First let us free ourselves from the grip of pessimism which is tantamount to submission to fate and to the loss of self-confidence. Let us always be aware that better times must come, when we shall have to answer for those principles to which we have devoted our lives."
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