Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Mayerling: The Facts Behind The Legend by Fritz Judtmann

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Obtained from: Personal Library
Read: February 8, 2013

On the morning of January 30th, 1889, Crown Prince Rudolph of Austria, only son of Emperor Francis Joseph I, was found dead in the bedroom of his hunting lodge, Mayerling. Beside him lay the body of the young Baroness Mary Vetsera. Was it a double suicide or was it a murder followed by suicide? The Imperial Court, in an attempt to hush up the threatened scandal, issued such vague information that the confusion of rumors, opinions, and contradictory versions still exists. After more then five years of intensive research, using at times the methods of the criminologist, Fritz Judtmann has produced a clear and impartial analysis of the mystery. Basing his work on numerous archives in Austria and elsewhere and collecting evidence from descendants and specialists, Judtmann has methodically separated fact and historically unconfirmed matter, and has brought into the investigation some astonishing new material. The extensive findings of his research, now published for the first time in English, make this book a unique and enduring work on the mystery of Mayerling.
Published originally in German under the title "Mayerling ohne Mythos" copyright 1968 Verlag Kremayr & Scheriau, Wien. 

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I admit I am a little obsessed with The Mayerling Incident, but that aside, I honestly feel Fritz Judtmann's Mayerling: The Facts Behind the Legend stands next to Richard Barkeley's The Road to Mayerling: Life and Death of Crown Prince Rudolph of Austria as one of the best resources available in the United States.

In a nutshell, the Mayerling Incident is a blanket term for the series of events that culminated on January 30th when the bodies of Crown Prince Rudolf and his mistress, Baroness Mary Vetsera were discovered at Mayerling. The cause of death was easy enough to determine, both had suffered gun shot wounds to the head, but the circumstances that led to their passings has always been shrouded in mystery.

In his examination of the tragedy, Judtmann takes a very unique approach. Rather than relaying the events, he analyzes the myriad of details and theories tied to the case, taking each in turn and evaluating possible explanations and/or possibilities.

No one argues it was a gun that took the lives Rudolf and Mary, but what type of gun might have been used? Could Archduke Johann Salvator have been the man who pulled the trigger? Judtmann answers both questions and hundreds more, reconstructing the events leading up to and following the deaths.

Though not the easiest of texts, Judtmann's work is the most comprehensive book I've encountered regarding Mayerling. An essential volume for anyone interested in the mystery.

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Count Eduard Taaffe... kept his solemn promise to leave unanswered "any question concerning the Crown Prince or anything to do with the affair" even beyond death, and has taken the "secrets of Mayerling" with him to his grave.
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