Kronprinz Rudolf (The Crown Prince) (2006)




Director:     Robert Dornhelm. 

Starring:    Max von Thun (Rudolf), Vittoria Puccini (Mary Vetsera), Gabriel Barylli (Miguel de Braganza), Wolfgang Bck (Bratfisch), Klaus Maria Brandauer (Emperor Franz-Joseph), Sandra Ceccarelli (Empress Elisabeth), Julia Cencig (Marie Larisch), Christian Clavier (Prime Minister Taaffe), Hilde Dalik (Anna, at Madame Wolf's), Rainer Frieb (Sarah's father), Michou Friesz (Madame Wolf), Phillippa Galli (Hanna Vetsera, adult), Daniela Golpashin (Stephanie), Veronika Hepperle (Mary Vetsera, child), Wolfgang Hbsch (Archbishop Schwarzenberg), Julia Jentsch (Sarah), Fritz Karl (Archduke Johann), Georges Kern (Schnerer), Michael Knig (Georges Clemenceau), Joachim Krl (Moritz Szeps), Birgit Minichmayr (Mizzi Kaspar), Lily Moshen (Valrie, adult), Michael Ostrowski (Count Pista Karolyi), Nikolaus Paryla (Loschek), Adolf Peischl (Archbishop), Kimberley Petzl (Valerie, child), Lothar Michael Proksch (King Leopold II), Lea Rometsch (Erzsi), Kimberly Rydel (Hanna Vetsera, child), Roland Schrck (Leopold of Bavaria), Omar Sharif (Hans Canon), Robert Stadlober (Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany), Alexandra Vandernoot (Helene Vetsera), Christoph von Friedl (Demonstrator), Francesca von Habsburg (Queen Marie-Henriette), Lena Wiesbauer (Maid), Peter Woy (Coburg), Christoph Zadra (Event Producer).

Made for TV. 

 the woman Austro-Hungarian Crown Prince Rudolph really wants to marry is not suitable according to his father and mother


Spoiler Warning:  below is the summary of the entire film. 


Part I

The Empress and then the Emperor of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire are told the bad news about their son.

The leader of the funeral procession knocks on the door of the cathedral. The priest inside asks who it is. "Archduke Rudolf of Habsburg" is the reply.   The priests only says: "We do not know him."

Flashback. Ten years earlier.   The Crown Prince is in bed with an older blonde woman named Countess Helene Vetsera. Later she is escorted out to a waiting carriage. 

The Crown Prince speaks with the German Crown Prince, Wilhelm.  He tells the German Prince that his father is sending him to Prague to be a soldier.  He will be a part of the 36th Infantry Regiment.  But he really does not want to go. 

With Emperor Franz-Joseph is the Empress Elizabeth.  She criticizes his adviser Taaffe.  The Empress tells her husband that he is being led around by Taaffe.  The Crown Prince tells his father"  "Don't send me away again."  But his father is a rather closed-off and stubborn man, who always seems to underestimate his son's abilities. 

The Crown Prince cools off at the local brothel.  Dr. Meissner shows up at the brothel.  Also there is Crown Prince Wilhelm.  He argues politics with Rudolf  and says that the Austrian-Hungarian Empire is finished. 

In Prague.  Rudolf goes hunting.  An arranged marriage has been discussed involving a royal Spanish "dumpling".  Rudolf does not want to marry the woman.  Speaking about politics again, he says:  "Prosperity and education will hold the empire together."   Rudolf learns that the new Prime Minister is Taaffe, who Rudolf describes as "a man who hates me."  The Crown Prince believes that the man's idiocies are destroying the country. 

The Crown Prince is having his portrait painted by the artist Hans Canon.  The two men have a rather close relationship.  Rudolf dresses as a civilian and goes out among the people accompanied at first by Canon.  He then goes by himself.  He goes into a Jewish bakery and gives the pretty Jewish clerk a large bill.  She scoffs at this and asks him how does he expect her to give him change for such a large bill.  Talking with her, he tells her that his name is Julius Felix.  He likes the young woman.  Rudolf takes his bread and sits on a bench outside to wait to see the woman again.  Some hungry boys steal his bread.  Rudolf returns to the Jewish bakery another day and buys more bread. 

Helene Vetsera shows up while Rudolf is dining in a hotel.  She tells him that she only has three hours, but he pulls away from her.  She asks him:  "Who is she?"  Rudolf answers:  "I don't know her."  Helene starts to leave.  She gives Rudolf her hotel key, but he just gives it back to her.

Rudolf walks with the Jewish clerk and they are bothered by some of the local boys. He chases them for awhile and ends up finding the living quarters of the boys.  They live in a huge room with a lot of children in the same miserable circumstances.  He is shocked at their living conditions.  He makes a commitment to himself to do something about these terrible living conditions.  He even sees the children in his dreams. 

Prime Minister Taaffe is having Rudolf tailed, so they will know his every move.  The Crown Prince fights to be more modern, but he is met with resistance everywhere he turns.  So, in his desperation, he turns to the Jewish newspaper editor Moritz Szeps.   As Julius Felix, Rudolf wants Szeps to publish his political writings critical of tying the Empire to the Germans rather than the French.  The editor tells him:  "You are using me to talk to your father."  

Rudolf tells Sarah that he loves her.  She says:  "Don't say that!"  Her family would not allow her to marry him.  Rudolf says the same about his family.  They kiss and then she says to him:  "When you come back, come back to me."  She then leaves. 

Gdllő, Hungary.  Rudolf meets briefly with his mother.  His cousin Johann mentions to Rudolf that Julius Felix's recent article has made the Prime Minister very angry.  Rudolf says that he needs to get back to Vienna or "there will be no empire to govern."  Rudolf meets a Scotsman named Middleton who he does not like because he sees the man being too familiar with his mother.  His mother scolds him for being rude to the man with whom she rather obviously is having some kind of relationship.  She then mentions that she knows that he (Rudolf) wants to get to Vienna through her.  But, says she:  "You may never be emperor, Rudolf."  The people themselves may chase them all out.  Johann tells Rudolf to get married and get a son, for a son means power.  Rudolf writes Sara a letter. 

The Empress speaks with the Emperor.  Franz Joseph has decided to make the Crown Prince the commanding general of his unit.  The Empress reminds him that his mother took Rudolf from her as soon as he was born, saying that the child belonged to Austria-Hungary.  She asks her husband:  "Are you making Taaffe the Crown Prince now?"

Rudolf goes to the Jewish bakery, but finds that everyone has gone.  He learns that Sarah's parents married her off.  And now she has died.  Rudolf becomes distraught and goes into a depression.  He says:  "I killed her."  He cynically adds:  "When you feel love, kill it or it will kill you."

Rudolf sees Helene Vetsera again.  Her young daughter Mary speaks with him.  It appears that Mary really likes the Crown Prince.

Stephanie of Belgium has been mentioned as a match for Rudolf.  Mother does not seem too keen on the idea and tells her son to at least meet her before proposing marriage to her.  It turns out that Stephanie is still very young.  She has not matured; she has not had her period as of yet.  Nevertheless, a wedding is arranged.  Mary Vetsera tells her mother that she will not go to the wedding.  The Countess burns Rudolf's picture.  At the wedding Crown Prince Wilhelm congratulates Rudolf on the success of his strategy to get back to Vienna. 

Preparing for the wedding night, Stephanie shivers with fear.  She has such a bad case of the jitters that she starts crying. 

Prague.  Two years later.  Rudolf is upset that Taaffe wants closer links with Germany.  The Crown Prince thinks it is a big mistake to trust and rely on Germany.  He is also not very happy with his wife.  She is too religious for him.  Rudolf says she is only interested in society.  And, in spite of the marriage, his father still manages to push him aside.  Taaffe wants to shut down the newspaper of Szeps.  This would mean that Rudolf would be denied a political voice.  The Crown Prince sides with the more modern ideas, while his father desperately clings to the past.  The writings of Julius Felix upsets the Emperor.  He says to his staff:  "I want him stopped, gentlemen."

Stephanie hasn't been well for a week.  Rudolf wants to stay in Vienna, but his father pushes him out once again.   After awhile, Rudolf visits his father to ask for the Emperor's permission to return to Vienna.  This time the Emperor is agreeable to the idea and says:  "Welcome back, Rudolf."  He gives Rudolf command of the 25th Infantry Division.  Rudolf is not happy with this.  He tells his father that he wants to fight poverty and injustice, not military battles.  His father remarks that an emperor is not God.  He cannot fix social problems.  (Rudolf's remarks further convince his father that he is too naive and therefore unreliable.)  Rudolf is so politically ignored that no one "important" comes to support his exhibition of electricity and the lighting of the street lamps of Vienna.

Rudolf learns that he will be a father.  Later Stephanie gives birth to a girl.  She asks Rudolf:  "Will your parents ever forgive me (for not having a boy)?" 

Vienna, 1888.  Mary Vetsera is all grown up.  She visits with a woman named Marie.  Stephanie is mad at her husband for continuing to go to the brothel and see the prostitute Mizzi Kaspar.  She tells her husband to stop seeing her, but that is very unlikely to happen. Prince Miguel de Braganza of Portugal will be Mary's escort for the Emperor's 40th anniversary-as-emperor ball.  The doctor visits with the Crown Prince. who now has a venereal disease.  The doctor tells Rudolf that he must slow down if he wants to be healthy.  For his pain, the doctor gives him a large supply of the addictive drug morphine.   Rudolf also attends the Emperor's ball.  There the subject of politics comes up again.  Hungary wants its independence from Austria.  So they keep offering the Hungarian crown to Rudolf.  Rudolf keeps turning it down, but he is definitely tempted at times when he is ignored politically in Vienna.  Some urge Rudolf to consider taking the Hungarian crown.  Outside, Marie and Mary walk up to the Crown Prince.  Rudolf tells Mary that he had seen her earlier because of her smile.  The Crown Prince is obviously impressed with the now all grown-up Mary. 

At home, Helene Vetsera asks her daughter Mary if she liked "him".  Choosing this to mean the Crown Prince instead of Braganza of Portugal, she responds:  "Oh, yes!"

Part II. 

Rudolf is at the brothel again.  And Dr. Meissner soon shows up.  (He is trailing the Crown Prince.)  The prostitute Mizzi Kaspar reads one of Mary Vetsera's letters to Rudolf.  She then tells Rudolf that he should meet with her.  So Rudolf arranges a meeting.  His servants brings her up to his room.  Rudolf scares her a bit with his unusual approach to her.  He asks her if he frightens her:  "These walls are my empire; for now."   He then asks Mary to tell him about herself.  She has to leave and does so.  (She takes with her Rudolf's fancy cigarette case that her mother gave to Rudolf some years before.)  When Mary comes home, her mother speaks with her. 

Rudolf and Mary go boat rowing.  Later Johann asks Rudolf about what would her mom say if she only knew about him and Mary.   He adds:  "She would shoot you." 

The German King Friedrich has taken ill.  He is no longer able to speak. 

Mizzi asks Rudolf if Mary is pretty.  He tells her:  "I'm falling in love."  He then tells Mizzi that she is his only friend.  Mizzi tells him that the palace is coming to him.  His very angry wife arrives saying:  "Tell your whore I want to speak to you alone."  She tells Rudolf that she has gonorrhea and the doctor told her she would not be able to have any more children. 

On a train Rudolf writes to Mary.  Mary's mother is trying to convince her daughter to marry Braganza.  Mary is insistent that she will not marry the man and her mother is equally insistent that she will. 

In Hungary, Rudolf is back with his military unit.  He speaks to his staff.  He tells that that he understands their desire to be free.  He adds that though his home is in Vienna, his heart is in Hungary.  This brings a cheer from his staff.  Latter Rudolf tells a Hungarian official that he is not interested in the Hungarian crown.  (Rudolf coughs his way through the meeting.)

The German emperor has died.  Rudolf speaks with his father and shows him a book he wrote.  The Emperor cannot believe his son capable of such an accomplishment and wants to know who wrote it, really.  This upsets Rudolf again. 

Mary, her mother and Braganza meet.  Braganza does his best to sell himself and the idea of marriage to Mary.  Meanwhile, Rudolf is with Mizzi talking about suicide.  He actually puts the barrel of his pistol into his mouth.  Mizzi stops him from proceeding any farther.  Rudolf is still angry about his father's thoughtless remarks.  Later Mizzi, upset over Rudolf's suicide threat, talks with Taffee's men.  She tells them that Rudolf needs help.  She asks:  "How can a father do this to his only son?"  The chief of police then reports to Taaffe that the Crown Prince seems determined to kill himself.  Taaffe dismisses the matter as being of little significance.  The police chief asks:  "What if the woman is right?" 

Mary Vetsera's mom goes through her daughter's private things.  Meanwhile, Mary is with Rudolf looking at the stars through a telescope.  He gives her a ring with the initials for the words:  "United in love, beyond death."  Mary tells him:  "I want to be with you always."  Her mother, however, continues to spy on her. 

Rudolf visits Jewish publisher Szeps, now in prison.  He apologizes to Szeps for getting him into so much trouble.  Rudolf tries to console him by saying:  "They are going after you, but it's a message to me."  Szeps tells Rudolf that the liberal forces may win in the upcoming French election.  He says that Clemenceau of France will pay Rudolf a visit.  This gives Rudolf something to hope for.

The government is arresting journalists.  Julius Felix (Rudolf) writes that the modern forces must strike back.  People stare at the Crown Prince and Mary.  They are still being followed.  Their tail draws pictures of the couple's actions.  One of them is of Mary kissing Rudolf's hand. 

Rudolf meets with Hans Canon, who gives Rudolf some advice.  The only thing that really counts is to live the life you should be living. 

Mary's mother forces open her daughter's locked box.  When Mary finds out, she is very angry.  This, however, does not discourage mother.  She continues her searching and finds the cigarette case in her belongings.  Now she knows for sure Mary is still with Rudolf.  Her eyes fill with tears.  She has her maid pack her daughter's bags. 

Wilhelm speaks with Rudolf, his father and the court staff.  From critical and secret information given to him by Rudolf, Wilhelm asks how does Austria-Hungary intend to fulfill her obligations to Germany when the empire's own inspector general admits that the Austro-Hungarian troops are not able to carry sufficient ammunition with them.  He adds that Germany can't tolerate such sloth and incompetence in her most important ally. 

Rudolf speaks with Marie.  She tells him that Mary has been sent to England and will remain there until she agrees to marry Braganza.  Her mother is with her.  Mom tells Mary that the marriage will save the family from dire circumstances.  Mary only says:  "I don't want everything you've dreamed of."  Mom continues by saying that they have no money left and that Mary's decision will mean either luxury or poverty for them. 

The Emperor and Rudolf talk again.  He tells Rudolf that Wilhelm is a Prussian, therefore a brute.  And Rudolf believes that Wilhelm will sell out Austria-Hungary so that Germany can use them to help fight France.  He says to his son that he understands that Rudolf has bought a hunting lodge.  He then asks:  "Isn't that too far from Budapest?"  This implies that Rudolf is possibly plotting with the Hungarians against him.  Rudolf objects, telling his father that although the Hungarians have asked him many times to accept the kingship of Hungary, he has turned them down every time.   The Emperor is not impressed.  He tells Rudolf to mend his damaged marriage:  "That's an order!"

Rudolf tries to have his marriage annulled, but has no success.  He goes hunting with his father and members of his gun club.  Rudolf is highly emotional.  He "breaks the line".  He steps into the firing area.  Both Rudolf and the Emperor aim their weapons at the same running wild boar.  The Emperor fires and kills the boar, while Rudolf's shot comes too close for comfort to his father.  Later Rudolf is together with Mizzi.  He shoots up with morphine.  It is obvious that he has become a morphine addict.  He tells Mizzi that "It's all or nothing now: life or death." 

Rudolf gets in his carriage.  He has his driver lose their tail.  Rudolf then proceeds to meet with the Frenchman Clemenceau.  They discuss the possibility of France and Austria-Hungary becoming allies.  Clemenceau says that his rival General Boulangier wants war with Germany.

Rudolf returns home.  His wife is together with Mary.  Mary tells Rudolf that she has received a proposal of marriage and that she is considering it.  The wife asks Rudolf:  "Isn't that wonderful news, darling?"  Disturbed by the hateful tone of the question, Mary asks the wife:  "Do you want him out of hate or out of love?"  The wife leaves.  Mary tells Rudolf that she does not care about his wife, Mizzi or Braganza.  She wants to be with Rudolf. 

At the hunting lodge named Mayerling, Rudolf is hosting a large gathering.  Braganza is there and he tells Rudolf that he wants to talk to him.  Rudolf says they will talk later.  The Crown Prince knows that by January 28 or soon after he will know if Hungary has its own army and if France is with him.  (The date is that of the French elections.)

Taaffe surprises Rudolf one day.  He gets into Rudolf's carriage and waits for Rudolf to arrive. Taaffe has the drawings done of Rudolf together with Mary.  When he sees Rudolf he warns him of the morphine addiction problem. 

Rudolf meets with Braganza.  He tells Braganza to marry Mary and save her.  "Save her Miguel," he says.  Rudolf then insists that his otherwise occupied father talk with him in private.  He tells his father that it is time to share the heavy burden of governing or let somebody else take it up.  The Emperor counters with a devastating statement:  "You cannot be my successor.  You are unfit to sit here."   He then complains about Rudolf having petitioned the Pope for the annulment of his marriage and creating a scandal with Mary.  He says:  "You will never see her again." 

 Taaffe shows Rudolf the many drawings made of Rudolf with Mary Vetsera.  He will use the pictures if necessary.  He tells Rudolf:  "You have no political future."  He says that he could even charge Rudolf with high treason. 

Rudolf tells Mary to accept Braganza's marriage proposal.  Mary objects:  "You are my life."  He answers that her life is in danger and that he wants her to do this for him.  She asks:  "What aren't you telling me?"  Then Rudolf denies that he still loves Mary.  He tells her to go to Italy for awhile.  Marie will go with her.  Mary cries and cries.  Rudolf decides to go to Mayerling to await the French election results.

Mary robotically joins in with Braganza, her mother and Marie in a toast to the future of their family.  Later they attend a ball with the Emperor and Empress present.  At the ball Rudolf walks and talks with his mother.  He asks her if she still has her Swiss bank accounts.  Yes, she does.  Mary follows them, so Rudolf introduces Mary to his mother, saying she will marry Braganza.  The Emperor, Empress and Rudolf's wife, upset with Rudolf being seen together with Mary, leave the ball.  Rudolf soon follows. 

Rudolf speaks with Mizzi.  She asks him when he will return from Mayerling.  He says he doesn't know.  He then tells Mizzi that he has put the house in her name.  He adds:  "I've always loved you and always will."  Mizzi is worried about the possibility of suicide at Mayerling. 

Mary speaks with Rudolf again.  She says:  "I love you so much; so very, very much." 

Rudolf kisses his daughter goodbye and then kisses his wife's hand.  He tells her goodbye.  She cries as he leaves.

Rudolf meets Mary at their set rendezvous place.  Then they are driven to Mayerling.  At Mayerling, Rudolf receives the bad news.  The liberals did not fare well in the French elections.  Back in Vienna, the Emperor says that now war with the French seems inevitable.  The Empress tells him:  "As Rudolf tried to tell you."  She also says:  "Those brave, foolish Hungarians, tying themselves to a drowning man."  

Rudolf and Mary spend all their time together.  But tomorrow Mary will be driven back to Vienna.  At night, while Mary sleeps, Rudolf writes his goodbye letters.  Mary awakens and asks"  "Must I go home?"  When she ifsready to go, she tells Rudolf again that she does not want to marry Braganza.  "Don't make me go, Rudolf!" she says.  At the carriage, the driver, Rudolf's house servant and Mary talk.  Mary tells them that Rudolf told her to stay in Vienna.  This raises suspicions in the driver and he suggests that Mary go back in the house to Rudolf.  Mary does so.  She knocks on Rudolf's locked door and he opens the door to let her in.  She tells him:  "You made a promise."   She shows him the ring he gave her with the inscription about love lasting even beyond death. 

They lay on the bed talking.  They talk about staying in this very moment, forever.  Rudolf fingers his pistol.  Outside, the driver and the servant hear a pistol shot and then another.  The driver tells the servant:  "It's over . . . Nothing we can do."

Back to the present.  The leader of the funeral procession repeats that it is the Crown Prince that is outside the church door.  And the priest again says:  "We do not know him."  Finally the funeral leader says that "Rudolf, a poor sinner" is at the church door.  The priest opens the church doors and the procession goes inside. 

World War I arrived in 1914 and went on into 1918.  At the end of the war the Austria-Hungary Empire disappeared. 


Good movie.  The acting is good and the story is interesting.  This version of the Romeo and Juliet story  is much more favorable to Crown Prince Rudolf than the others.  In this version, we understand the difficult, if not impossible, situation Rudolf found himself.  His motivations are explained in detail in this version.  The only thing I missed was seeing the Austria-Hungary Emperor having to deal with the Empress after the terrible ending. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

Historical Background:

See Mayerling (1936).



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