The family spent Christmas of 1888 together, knowing that Marie Valerie would marry. However, they could not have foreseen the tragedy that was to come the following month. On 30 January 1889, Crown Prince Rudolf shot his mistress Mary Vetsera before turning the gun on himself. Marie Valerie found her mother very pale and immediately asked, “Did he kill himself?” She wrote in her diary that she immediately knew. Elisabeth’s demeanour took a turn for the worse after Rudolf’s death and Marie Valerie constantly worried about her. She wrote, “Mama isn’t much likely to be who she once was. She envies Rudolf for his death and longs for it day and night. Her faith is also deeply devastated, and she often says eternal sleep would be better than awakening to life again because she only asks for rest.”1
Marie Valerie found solace with Franz Salvator and they were finally married on 31 July 1890 in Bad Ischl. She wrote, “I was crying, but those were tears of blissful emotion and nostalgia, of my warmest gratefulness.”2 The night before the wedding, Elisabeth had taken Marie Valerie in her arms and told her that she had been a good child. Marie Valerie described it as one of the most beautiful moments of her life.3
However, Elisabeth believed that she had lost her daughter now that she was married, as she had stated to Franz Salvator before the wedding. “You must not believe, as many people do, that I want to see Valerie married to you so as to keep her near me. When she marries, it does not matter whether she goes to China or remains in Austria – she is lost to me in any case. But I trust you, your character, your love for her, and if I were to die today, I could die in peace only because I entrust Valerie to you.”4
The newlyweds moved to the castle of Lichtenegg in Wels, where they lived with a staff of 24 people. Nevertheless, Marie Valerie visited her parents often and worried frequently about her mother. Marie Valerie and Franz Salvator also visited Elisabeth on Corfu. Soon, Marie Valerie was pregnant with her first child and a daughter named Elisabeth Franziska (Ella) was born on 27 January 1892. Elisabeth had not shared her daughter’s joy at her first pregnancy. Marie Valerie wrote, “She sighed about my condition, it was difficult for her to feel with me the happiness which, strangely, in spite of her motherlove for me, she cannot understand at all. She told me… that the birth of every new human being seemed to her a misfortune since one can fulfil one’s destiny only in suffering.”5
They would go on to have a total of ten children: Franz Karl (born 1893), Hubert (born 1894), Hedwig (born 1896), Theodor (born 1899), Gertrud (born 1900), Maria (born 1901), Clemens (born 1904), Mathilde (born 1906) and Agnes (born 1911). Her youngest daughter Agnes died the same day she was born. It had been a difficult and long labour for the 43-year old Marie Valerie. She later wrote, “My good old Franz cried at my bedside so bitterly that I still had to speak comfort to him. Perhaps it was mixed in for him with the thought that this abnormal pregnancy could have cost me my life. We felt ourselves more deeply united on the inside than we have done for a long time.”6 Little Agnes had been baptized during the few hours of her life, and she was buried in the cemetery at the Kaiservilla. Marie Valerie later wrote, “How comforting to think that this small grandchild has perhaps been brought to her at last in heaven!”7 Elisabeth had never been fond of being known as a grandmother, but Marie Valerie revelled in her role as a mother. Nevertheless, she was often present during the final days of her daughter’s pregnancies.
On 10 September 1898, Marie Valerie’s mother was assassinated in Geneva. She wrote in her diary, “Oh God! What do you want from us… I’m still not able of any coherent thought.”8 She later added, “Now it has happened as she always wished it to happen, quickly, painlessly, without medical treatment, without long, fearful days of worry for her dear ones.”9
After her mother’s tragic death, Marie Valerie took on the task of sorting through her mother’s papers. Elisabeth had burned a lot of letters but plenty were also still left. Marie Valerie also found poems, which were kept in a box until being rediscovered in 1950. She even considered publishing some of them. Marie Valerie and Gisela each inherited 2/5 of their mother’s estate. The other 1/5 went to their niece Elisabeth.
Marie Valerie would live to see the end of the Habsburg monarchy. Her father died in 1916 and was succeeded by his grandnephew Charles, who would be the last Emperor. Marie Valerie lived at Wallsee during the years of the First World War, where she spent much time on charity. Marie Valerie died on 6 September 1924 of lymphoma. Shortly before her death, her sister Gisela wrote, “I saw Valerie on August 11 in soundness of mind, fully cognizant of her condition and looking towards her end with such devout faithfulness, even joy, that I believe an unexpected recovery would have been a disappointment for her. She was quite at peace that God would work all things together for the best for her husband and children, that she was not in the least concerned. One could only envy her.”10
Her funeral was private, but around 40,000 people followed in the procession. During the procession, the steamship Marie Valerie sailed by the castle several times with its flag flown at half-mast and the crew standing to attention.
Franz Salvator later wrote to Gisela’s husband, Prince Leopold, “Many thanks for your sharing in our sorrow. What we have lost cannot be expressed in words, and it is only now when daily life gradually begins to resume its normal pace, that one becomes aware of what is missing in the house! Some very difficult times are now ahead of me, I must now bear the full responsibility for many matters, particularly ones regarding the children, alone.”11
- Das tagebuch der Lieblingstocher von Kaiserin Elisabeth p.197
- Haderer, Stefan (2020).” They will call us some strange family.” The diaries of an Austrian Archduchess. Royalty Digest Quarterly 3/2020 p.11
- Das tagebuch der Lieblingstocher von Kaiserin Elisabeth p.233
- The reluctant Empress by Brigitte Hamann p.338
- Betrayer’s Waltz by Jennifer Bower Bahney p.42
- Betrayer’s Waltz by Jennifer Bower Bahney p.44
- Betrayer’s Waltz by Jennifer Bower Bahney p.44
- Haderer, Stefan (2020).” They will call us some strange family.” The diaries of an Austrian Archduchess. Royalty Digest Quarterly 3/2020 p.12
- The reluctant Empress by Brigitte Hamann p.370
- Betrayer’s Waltz by Jennifer Bower Bahney p.100
- Betrayer’s Waltz by Jennifer Bower Bahney p.101