Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Behind the Scenes at the Court of Vienna: The Private Life of the Emperor of Austria from Information by a Distinguished Personage at Court by Henri de Weindel

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Personal Library
Read: May 19, 2014

An account of the Hapsburg court during the reign of Emperor Franz Josef and Empress Elisabeth.

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I had a lot of fun reading Henri de Weindel's Behind the Scenes at the Court of Vienna. The book itself is not a particularly accurate volume, but it is amusing for its exploration of contemporary gossip. 

A French editorialist, the most important thing to remember in looking at this piece is that Weindel collaborated with an unnamed source some sixteen years after the death of Empress Elisabeth. Best taken with a healthy measure of salt, much of his work contradicts firsthand accounts of the royal court as well as the investigative records pertaining to Crown Prince Rudolf and the affair at Mayerling. 

Weindel paints a sympathetic portrait of both Empress Elisabeth and Crown Princess Stephanie which I found interesting as the two were so famously incompatible. The author is far less gracious toward Franz Josef, Crown Prince Rudolf and the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, but his conclusions are still fairly interesting when considered in context. 

Akin to a grocery store tabloid, Behind the Scenes at the Court of Vienna is not something I'd recommend to those unfamiliar with the Hapsburgs, but it is noteworthy for its depiction of popular opinion regarding the Imperial household immediately prior to the assassinations in Sarajevo.

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Such was the romantic betrothal, on August 18th, 1853, of the Emperor Francis-Joseph and the beautiful Princess Elisabeth. And thus did Elisabeth verify part of the prophecy of a gipsy at Possenhofen long ago, that she would wear a double crown—the crown of an Empress and the crown of a martyr.
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