Erzsi – Crown Prince Rudolf’s unconventional daughter

Crown Prince Rudolf with his family, original photograph after a painting by J. Plagemann

Archduchess Elisabeth Marie, known in the family as Erzsi, the diminutive of her name in Hungarian, was the only child of Rudolf and Stephanie.

Crown Prince Rudolf with his family, original photograph after a painting by J. Plagemann

After Rudolf’s death she became the ward of her grandfather Emperor Franz Joseph, who idolized her. She herself began to heroize her late father, whose unconventional character she had inherited, while her relationship with her mother always remained difficult.
Her individualistic spirit helped her to win her grandfather round to her marriage to Prince Otto von Windischgrätz in 1902 even though it went against dynastic convention. While Windischgrätz was a member of the Austrian nobility, he was not from a ruling dynasty and thus not of equal birth. The marriage proved to be very unhappy, with both partners giving rise to gossip in Viennese society with their extra-marital affairs. Divorce was only possible after the end of the Monarchy in 1924. This was followed by an ugly fight for custody of the children which was splashed all over the press.
In the 1920s Elisabeth met the Social Democrat member of Parliament Leopold Petznek, with whom she initially lived in a common-law marriage. They did not marry until 1948. She also became a member of the Austrian Social Democratic Party, earning her the epithet of the ‘Red Archduchess ’. The last years of her life were spent in her villa in Hütteldorf, a suburb of Vienna, which she bequeathed after her death in 1963 to the municipality together with numerous heirlooms from the estate of her father and grandfather. Crown Prince Rudolf’s daughter is buried in the cemetery at Hütteldorf in Vienna.

Martin Mutschlechner