Friday, September 10, 2010

Pop History Moment: An Empress Is Slain

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If Luigi Lucheni expected to further the cause of anarchism by killing the much-loved Empress of Austria on this day in 1898 he did not do so. He did, however, succeed in doing pretty much the exact opposite. Killing the 60-year-old Empress exponentially increased her legend; ninety years after the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the woman known as Sisi lives on in film, music, and novels and is as popular today as she ever was. Even now she is often compared to Princess Diana for her sparkling personality, fashion sense, and for her compassion toward the downtrodden...

Lucheni - known in anarchist circles as 'the stupid one' for his inability to grasp even simple concepts of anarchism - had set out to prove his support for the cause by killing a royal, in this case the Duc d'Orleans. When a change in the Duke's plans meant he couldn't be got, he went for the Empress, whom he knew to be poorly guarded, instead.

On a promenade beside Lake Geneva, as the Empress and her lady-in-waiting Countess Sztaray were boarding a boat for Montreux, Lucheni stabbed her in the heart with a needle file. She fell, but unaware that she was hurt, boarded the boat anyway; it was there that the extent of her injuries were ascertained. Though her corset stays slowed the bleeding, she was fatally injured, and died shortly thereafter. Her last words were said to be 'What happened to me?'

Her Imperial and Royal Majesty is buried alongside her illustrious Hapsburg ancestors in the Imperial Crypt in Vienna.

Lucheni, 25, admitted his crimes in court, and was sentenced to life in prison; while there he wrote his memoirs, which were later confiscated by guards and have since been lost. In October 1910 he was found hanging from his belt in his jail cell, and his death was ruled a suicide.
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