Traces of a life: Crown Prince Rudolf
Rudolf’s apartments in the Swiss Wing of the Vienna Hofburg, which can be regarded as the crown prince’s principal residence, is today the seat of the Federal Monuments Office and is not accessible to the public as a rule.
Furniture and mementoes from Rudolf’s estate, including several pieces of furniture from his nursery, the Turkish Room from his apartments in the Hofburg recalling his travels to the Orient, and the bed from the hunting lodge at Mayerling in which Rudolf died, are on display at the Hofmobiliendepot (Imperial Furniture Collection) in Vienna.
A small permanent exhibition focusing on Rudolf’s enthusiasm for nature and his ornithological research can be seen on the ground floor of Schönbrunn Palace, on display in the rooms occupied by the crown prince when he stayed at the palace.
The former hunting lodge at Mayerling, scene of his suicide in 1889, was rebuilt on the orders of Emperor Franz Joseph as a Carmelite convent and is still in the keeping of the nuns today. The chapel of the convent was built on the site of the bedroom where the fatal shots were fired. Part of the complex houses a small museum which is open to the public.
Numerous institutions such as schools or hospitals across the entire Monarchy were named after the crown prince as an expression of loyalty to the imperial dynasty. There follows a small selection, with emphasis on Vienna.
The Rudolfstiftung is a hospital in Vienna’s third municipal district founded by Emperor Franz Joseph on the birth of his son in 1858. Another medical institution named after him is the Rudolfinerhaus, a private clinic in the nineteenth district established in 1882 by the Rudolfinerverein, an association of which Rudolf was the patron and whose first director was the famous Austrian physician Theodor Billroth.
Vienna’s fifteenth municipal district – Rudolfsheim-Fünfhaus – received the first part of its name in honour of the crown prince in 1863.
In keeping with a nineteenth-century custom – examples include the Emperor Franz Joseph Railway, or the Empress Elisabeth Railway – a railway line was named after the crown prince. The Rudolf Railway is the now rarely used name of the connecting line crossing the Eastern Alps from St Valentin (Lower Austria) via Villach (Carinthia) to Tarvisio (Italy) which was constructed between 1868 and 1873.
The Crown Prince Rudolf apple variety, which arose from random hybridization in the nineteenth century, was also named after the heir to the Habsburg throne.