Sophie Görlich: Allegory on the betrothal of Crown Prince Rudolf and Stephanie of Belgium, oil on canvas, 1881

Love Stories and Marriage Business


‘Habsburg, single, interested in marriage, seeks ...’ – these might be the opening words of a Habsburg personal advertisement. However, members of the dynasty hardly had to bother themselves with looking out for wives and husbands – others did it for them. Habsburg love-life was governed by strict rules: as members of the higher nobility they could not simply marry in accordance with their personal wishes, but had to take account of the dynasty’s demanding strictures as to what was ‘in keeping with rank and title’. This naturally imposed considerable limitations on the number of potential partners and also made it far from rare for Habsburgs to marry blood relatives. In spite of all the demands made on them to behave in accordance with their exalted standing, the Habsburgs, especially the men, were not over-scrupulous with regard to their marriage vows – affairs and extramarital relationships were no exception.

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