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Demise of the Empress

The last visit the Empress Elizabeth made to Britain was to Cromer in 1887. After then her travels were only on the European mainland. Two years later her son Rudolf was tragically found dead with his lover at Mayerling, in Austria. From this time she always wore black.

Her final visit was to Switzerland in 1898 where she stayed in Caux but on the 9th September she had visited the Baroness Rothschild near Geneva and had stayed the night at the hotel Beau-Rivage on the shores of lake Geneva. The following morning after lunch she intended to take a boat back across the lake to return to Caux with her lady-in-waiting Countess Sztáray.

But Luigi Luccheni was also in Geneva looking for the French Duke of Orléans as he intended to kill him. Luccheni was an Italian anarchist from a poor and tragic background who was intent on making a statement by killing a famous person. He learnt that the Duke was not in town but heard that an Empress was in Geneva. He waited outside the hotel and when she left to walk to the steamer he approached her with a sharpened file he had prepared; he approached the ladies and stabbed the Empress in the chest. She fell to the ground but was unaware of what had actually happened. Her lady-in-waiting helped her to her feet and they proceeded to the boat. When they had embarked she again collapsed and it was discovered that she had a small bleeding wound in her breast. Help was called for and the Captain informed of the name of the passenger and the nature of her injury; he was told to return to the harbour so that the Empress could be given medical and spiritual assistance back in the hotel Beau-Rivage. Members of the crew carried her on a makeshift stretcher but it was to be too late as she had already died.

The Emperor was at the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna when he received a telegraph message saying that the Empress had been seriously injured. He requested that they seek further details but shortly after another message was received:

“Her Majesty the Empress had just passed away”.

Franz Josef felt that he was to be spared nothing in this world and also that no-one would know how much he had loved her. She was only 60 years old and they had been married for 44 years. Her funeral was held a week later and she was buried in the crypt of the Capuchin church in Vienna next to her son Rudolf and later, in 1916, by Franz Josef. He had ruled the Habsburg Empire for 68 years since he was eighteen and suffered much political turmoil and personal unhappiness during this time: his first child dying aged 2 years, his son and heir Rudolf committing suicide; his brother Maximilian being assassinated in Mexico and now the murder of his beloved Sisi. And yet he lived for another eighteen years and died in the middle of the First World War. The Habsburg empire would also cease, in 1918.